It was a rainy Seattle afternoon/evening, and as the water drenched the roadways into rivers, a lineup was forming outside the Showbox Market to see Lorde (aka. Ella Yelich O’Connor), the sixteen year old singer/songwriter sensation from New Zealand whose hit ‘Royals’ was the first single in seventeen years by a woman to top the alternative chart since Tracy Bonham. Umbrellas blew inside out, ponchos duly covered up shorts and fishnet shirts, but nobody, NOBODY, was getting out of that line. Lorde is currently touring in support of her debut record, Pure Heroine, and this was the hottest ticket in town. And as the doors opened, people rushed inside gleefully, not to escape the deluge outside, but to secure the best vantage point to take it all in. And they were not disappointed.
Lorde sings in a throaty, gorgeously flexible voice about being a run-of-the-mill teenager. ‘Royals’ speaks to the fact that so much pop music today is full of bling and unattainable scenarios while the reality for the kids listening to that music is so different; and that is a very refreshing thing to hear. Kids in her songs are just hanging out, driving around with their heads hanging out the window, trying to feel alive. The sparse, atmospheric, bass-heavy electropop arrangement works very well with this as I can imagine kids with their heads hanging out the window, driving around, listening to Lorde. In one of the songs from her set, “Glory and Gore,” she stated “I don’t ever think about death/It’s alright if you do, it’s fine”…I heard that and was stunned. For a sixteen year old…this girl is wise beyond her years. (Overheard: “I’m getting on the Lorde train.”)
Smoke filled the sold out Showbox as Lorde took the stage. She has a very cool stage persona, but it was very sweet to see her break out into a full smile after the first song; this is her first major tour and she seemed almost as wowed at the crowd as they were in love with her. She told her audience that she’ll “remember this.” But she was a flawless performer and held the stage on her own, her (awesome) drummer and keyboardist fading into the background but providing the solid foundation for her to take the crowd over completely. Lorde put on a controlled, theatrical performance, gesturing slowly at the appropriate moments in her songs and then dancing with herself when the hooks came in. As I roamed the crowd at one point I heard a woman say to her friend “I’m getting on the Lorde train.” I am positive that she was not the only convert at this show. The audience was quite varied, with everyone from tween girls to grey-haired dudes enjoying every moment. Quite simply, it was brilliant.
Opening for Lorde was the British band Until The Ribbon Breaks, which mainly consists of one Pete Lawrie Winfield and his touring band of two. Winfield is no stranger to the music scene, having remixed tracks for Tegan and Sara and El-P and been taken note of by the likes of Jay-Z and Pitchfork Media. As I said, there were tween girls in the audience and when Until The Ribbon Breaks came on stage there was a very audible sound of little hearts melting. Then the music started, and the band proceeded to win even more people over. UTRB features quite a bit of percussion; at multiple points during their set all three musicians were playing different sorts of drum-type-kits to the backing of dreamy, danceable MacBook Pro tracks. Winfield also swapped between keyboards and trumpet, sometimes delivering vocals in his unadulterated dry, sexy voice and at others filtering them through auto-tune or distortion.
The show at Showbox was part of Decibel Festival 2013 taking place this past weekend. The electronic music, performance and visual festival is celebrating their ten year anniversary.