Lorde could’ve easily moved her Friday show at the Orpheum Theatre to a much larger venue.
Thanks to the smash success of her single “Royals,” its recent high-profile win at the Grammy Awards for song of the year, and the ubiquity of current hit single “Team,” the singer-songwriter has soared to stardom in less than a year. Lorde has enjoyed the rare success that includes both commercial good fortune and critical acclaim for her 2013 debut album, “Pure Heroine.”
But the teenager from New Zealand — born Ella Yelich-
O’Connor — wisely chose to keep her original booking and the intimate environs of the Orpheum made for a much more special show than any arena would have allowed
The vintage theater lent itself to the inherent drama of her material and its combination of sparse darkness, grandiose emotions, and intricate rhythms. The close quarters also meant bringing the crowd — including many girls Lorde’s age and younger — within a mania-inducing few feet of their heroine. They were able to see — and scream loudly for — each grimace and gesticulation as Lorde threw herself into her songs and around the simply adorned stage, featuring her two backing musicians, a few mounted lights, a Gothic chandelier, and a trio of video screens in a picture frame.
Lorde, dressed all in black, gripped the crowd from the first moment of opener “Glory and Gore,” with its dynamic peaks and valleys percolating in time with the flashing lights and the declaration “victory’s contagious” setting the night’s mood of defiance and celebration.
While many of Lorde’s tunes, from the skittering grooves of “Tennis Court” to the austere goth funk of “Buzzcut Season,” employ similar patterns — an unadorned vocal line, droning synth sounds, a lurch into an irresistible, hitching, stuttering rhythm track, spectral (and, unfortunately, canned) backing vocals — the singer was a compelling enough onstage presence to make the formula feel like a cohesive artistic whole rather than simple repetition.
A hypnotic cover of the Replacements’ “Swingin Party” was a pleasant surprise. And if this sends Lorde’s fans — of any age — down a rabbit hole to investigate the splendid Minneapolis rockers, then that’s a good night’s work.
Although she didn’t talk much — noting she had been getting over a cold, but sounding no worse for it — Lorde did pause to reflect near the end of the 75-minute show. A long, rambling speech before the pulsating “Ribs” included remembrances of a blow-out house party, the simultaneous allure of adult behavior and the fear of leaving childhood behind, and the mind-blowing reality of her current life of telling these stories to sold-out theaters full of wildly appreciative audiences.
After loud singalongs to “Royals” and “Team,” the night ended, somewhat incongruously, in a burst of confetti and the closer “A World Alone.”