For a short, sweet set at last night’s Apple Music showcase, Lana Del Rey performed to a roomful of fans whose shouts of devotion could verge on creepy (“I wanna party with yoooooou!” was among the more polite invitations). In a white dress and wide leather belt more Sunday morning church than Saturday night speakeasy, Del Rey struggled with sound problems that weren’t always apparent – “Can we talk about the front of house bass?” she said to the soundperson, patiently – interrupting the show at points to step off stage and disappear into the crowd in a light-blaze of cell-phone-camera-selfie-snapping.
Backed with guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, she convincingly sold her back catalog (“Ultraviolence,” “Born to Die,” “Shades of Cool”), inhabiting her 21st century pop-noir characters with captivating poise. With her slightly narcotized vibe, Del Rey functions as a blank slate for her roles and, no doubt, her fans’ fantasies. She’s dialed back her delivery a bit over the years and gained better control of her voice, which sounded fetching, as she worked upper-register ornamentations like drawing curlicues on a diary page.
The highlights were a ghostly solo reading of “Yayo,” for which she strapped on a Gibson Flying V and the live debut of her new single “Love,” a lyrical muddle directed to “you kids with your vintage music” that still manages to make its Cocteau Twins appropriations into compellingly moody pop.
Del Rey is a likable star – you might imagine her as Katy Perry’s problem-child sibling, getting high with gangsters and doing weird things with her mascara while sis does photo-ops with Hillary Clinton. And the fact that Del Rey doesn’t always seem so into her job, but feels compelled to do it anyway, it is part of the charm. After inviting the crowd to sing along on “Video Games,” which they laid into, she tells the song’s screen-addict lover “this is my idea of fun.” You don’t know that she entirely means it in the context of the song, or the show – though she may want to believe it – and the tension made the music linger after the crowd’s encore pleas went unanswered, and the lights went up.