Lorde at the LA Staples Center by a Drunk Kiwi who sometimes Misses Home
“This is for anyone who grew up in the suburbs”
I’m not sure what I wanted from Lorde, from Ella, from a Taka Grammar Girl dancing on a stage in front of 19,000 people in a too-big city I decided to live in. I guess I wanted her to feel more like home.
I grew up in the suburbs, the same suburbs in fact, that she grew up in. The same tree streets, the same salt water edged boundaries, little coves and hills everywhere, views to the city, to remind you you’re somewhere smaller.
A Lorde show has to mean more for us New Zealanders, she’s all of us and none of us, she’s our cousin or our friend’s friend from school or our neighbour’s niece, our competition and our offspring all in one. We like to lay claim to her, like we each individually made her by simply existing in a small country at the bottom of the world. We like to feel like we are a part of her.
So maybe I was looking for that part of her, the part of her that is me, that was me as a sixteen year old trying to negotiate the kissing of tar on highways or the replaying of broken social scene songs at melancholic parties.
* * *
We were in the back, not quite the back row, but basically, and back there, in the cheap seats, the whole place felt very ordered and stacked. It wasn’t ready to burst open with her, there’s no convulsing in the staples center, no small movements becoming big movements, just people, in seats, in rows, in boxes, in sections, in a giant bowl we were at the rim of.
I felt very far away.
God she was so fucking polished. In many ways, it was beautiful. The purple glow of the stage like a fluorescent bruise, somehow the blue of that toning each of the songs, bringing in their slowness. The crop top is in, apparently, her old curls ghosted by dead straightness, her movements smooth.
I leant over to Victoria, who, like me (and the rest of the crowd), knew all the words. “I miss the awkwardness though, like cool you can dance now.”
I still can’t.
I can’t help but be in simultaneous awe and slight distaste of the bandless concert. I wondered from the outset if the energy would be different with more musicians on stage, if I was being pretentious by thinking that, if Lorde needed anyone to carry her. But the venue was big, and despite her ongoing attempts (and flirting with the ambiguous anthropomorphized figure of “LA”), not a place for the dancing her songs deserve or require.
A Lorde concert is not designed for a seated venue. Liberate us with open air, with a big outdoor stage and the surreal black and white and green spotlighted world of a vast field. Let us dance and feel the cold sinking of night. Let us be blinded to the stars by the incessant glow of stadium bulbs. Let us be a part of lighting up someone’s horizon like a lowering moon.
“This is an old song”
“You have two albums, half your discography is old.”
It’s incredible how much light a phone torch gives off. We became the light pollution of a city in there, a miniature world, the same mauve the LA sky takes on. The same never-dark atmosphere. Writer in the half-light. I took a single photo. My phone is in black and white at the moment so I look at it less. It seemed more appropriate somehow, the colour drained away.
Not that I was disappointed by the music (all I wanted to hear was Buzzcut Season, 400 Lux and Ribs and I was blessed with all three), but redemption came in the form of Perfect Places, Ella in a pink outfit that looked like it exploded on her, reminding me that what the fuck is perfect anyway and what the fuck did you expect me to do for you.
And, of course, Green Light was the escape it had always been, the coming up for air in a deep pool (where not everything was good). We stood in our allocated zone in Section 313, row 7, seats 20 and 21, and danced. And it brought me right home, to the flat courtyard on Symonds Street, to the long nights and non-existent mornings. To Green Light at least three times and no one complaining. To feeling ok.
The container that the dancers occupied lit up like the empty battery signal of an iphone.
I wanted there to be some secret between us, some unspoken New Zealand thing that in a room full of emotional Americans, could be ours alone. Could bring us back there, to the green hills and the green ocean and the green bush and everything so fucking green and damp it couldn’t be anywhere else.
I could still feel Devonport in her, youth concerts on the rolling plains of Mt Victoria, White Birds and Lemons, Coshercot Honeys, The Checks, The Naked and Famous, I guess when they were just naked. I’m sure we were at the same shows, felt the same things, wanted to make something of that.
Maybe I was projecting.
* * *
It’s a cold, wet, Auckland-like night in LA when I make my way home on the bus with the knees pulled in. I can’t help but feel that the line she sung with the most gusto in the whole show was the full of pathos ‘Ribs’ line
“I want em’ back, the minds we had.”
It’s a line that may only get truer, cause fuck, we just keep growing up.
I can’t help but feel that Lorde writes not about what our lives were, but what we wanted them to be, what we thought we should feel when we were snuck out lying under bridges looking at a city blink over water. How much we thought everything should mean. And it just keeps meaning more and more.
Being a teenager is about that complete and encompassing longing, a longing for the bigness in the small things, and realizing, in sepia filtered memories later, that the bigness was always in the small things. The small things made life wonderful and impossibly large.
What could be bigger than a total lack of responsibility while you push back against your life in the most quiet of ways – feeling like you’re rebelling by sitting on the top of a skateboard ramp at night, legs making ripples in the light as you dangle them over the edge, or drinking bad mixers for the first time, or smoking your first joint from an orange post it note and staining the inside of your thumb and forefinger amber, or sitting up with your friend all night, blood burn of knees slightly touching.
Maybe I was asking too much of Lorde to make me feel like that again, to bring me back to being a teenager in New Zealand.
Maybe I’m just getting old.