The TD Garden stage that Lana Del Rey sang from Saturday night had been transformed into a microcosm of her beloved California. If the rock formations, palm trees, and beach chairs didn’t get the point across, the breathtaking video of the West Coast shoreline surely did the trick. Del Rey has always had the ambition, charisma, and aesthetic vision of a true star, but now, seven years after first demanding the world’s attention with “Video Games,” she finally has the live chops and deep catalog of hits necessary to put on the arena show of her dreams.
Del Rey opened with a trio of smoky, languorous ballads, and the ease with which she conveyed unfathomable depths of longing made it hard to believe she’d ever been considered a shaky performer. She had some help from her backing band, which masterfully conjured soundscapes so hazy they were almost mirage-like, along with two glamorous backup singers whose synchronized dance moves brought a dash of old-school showbiz perfect for Del Rey’s signature noir vibe. A brief snippet of “Scarborough Fair” preceded a run of singles from her 2012 debut, “Born to Die,” and while the title track and “Blue Jeans” sounded more like classics than ever, the clumsy half-rapping of “National Anthem” should have been cut from the setlist years ago.
“Lust for Life,” the album Del Rey dropped last summer, introduced an empathetic streak to what had been a decidedly solipsistic body of work. Sincerity has always been a bit of a third rail for Del Rey, yet the tenderness with which she treated socially conscious numbers like the plaintive piano ballad “Change” never felt forced or mawkish. When she sang “Lust for Life” and “Love,” perhaps the two least-conflicted love songs she’s ever written, she radiated a joy downright enchanting in its purity.
Though it would have been nice to hear more than one song from her excellent 2015 album, “Honeymoon,” Del Rey’s 20-song set offered a reasonably thorough survey of her career. Even when she indulged in stadium pageantry, like singing “Video Games” while hovering over the audience in a giant swing, it only made the show feel more intimate, amplifying her idiosyncrasies rather than smoothing them over. The most shiver-inducing moment came when Del Rey strapped on a guitar for a solo rendition of “Yayo,” stripping the sadness she usually dresses in ornate arrangements down to its hollow core. Having told her fans countless times how much she loved and appreciated them throughout the night, Del Rey proved that hadn’t just been idle talk on the set-closing “Off to the Races,” jumping into the crowd for several minutes of impromptu meet-and-greet while the band whipped up a quiet storm of Bond-theme-worthy melodrama.
Jhené Aiko opened with a set of cool, confident R&B, complete with a harpist who gave her slow jams an air of blissed-out serenity.
LANA DEL REY
With Jhené Aiko
At TD Garden, SaturdayTerence Cawley can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @terence_cawley