There’s a laundry list of stars who have played the Grand Ole Opry House: Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and, now, Lorde. The 17-year-old Kiwi made her Nashville debut last night in what was likely one of the venue’s more unorthodox billings, though you wouldn’t know it from the sold out, surprisingly diverse crowd (teenage girls, as it turns out, were not the majority).
None of this was lost on Lorde who, a few dates into her first true U.S. tour with opener Majical Cloudz, understood the magnitude of selling out such an historic venue. “None of those shows have been quite as historic or quite as iconic as this one,” she told the crowd. “Today [my mom] stood out here, where I’m sure Johnny Cash stood, and she said, ‘You don’t get to play the Grand Ole Opry unless you’re somebody.’ And it hit me like ‘Holy crap.'”
Taking the hallowed stage lit only by an overhead spotlight, Lorde began with “Glory and Gore,” traipsing around in a cape and dancing in that jerky, semi-possessed way only Lorde can. This is the kind of pop star I wish we’d had when I was growing up, one who writes insightful lyrics about the pains of adolescence, yes, but also one who makes flailing look cool. School dances would have been so much easier if I could have just waved my arms to “Royals” instead of trying to get low to Lil Jon.
After the first song, the black backdrop behind Lorde dropped to reveal a white-clad, two-piece band (drums and keys/synth) and a wall of screens, which alternated between performance close-ups and moody, atmospheric footage. Highlights included Pure Heroine‘s “Tennis Court” and “400 Lux,” newish non-album cut “No Better” and a cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” that segued, appropriately, into “Bravado,” while bubbles floated in front of geometric, Yeezy-esque neon (let the Lorde/Illuminati conspiracies begin here).
Toward the end of her set, Lorde delivered a lengthy monologue about her fear of growing up before playing “Ribs,” a sharp, Broken Social Scene-referencing song she said “poured out of her” at the ripe old age of fifteen after throwing a house party with her sister. As a twenty-five year old woman who at fifteen had nothing but braces pouring out of my mouth, I found myself contemplating my own, less accomplished backslide out of quarter life, but thankfully not for long, because the last set change brought aural novocaine in the form of mega-smash “Royals” and an extended, confetti-drenched take on “Team.”
That delicate balance between introspective angst and pop star bombast has made Lorde one of the more interesting breakouts of the last few years, one who can be taken seriously by Pitchfork while getting the tweens out in droves on a school night. When she defiantly smirked “let ’em talk” at the end of show (and album) closer “A World Alone,” one got the sense that Lorde would have people talking for a long time to come.