The curtains fall at Aware Super Theatre in Sydney, and Ella Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde) emerges as a silhouette on a sundial three times her size. She’s accompanied by a band of five musicians, all dressed in mustard yellow suits. The show already feels a bit cult-like, especially with the opener being “Leader of a New Regime”.
Sporting blonde locks, Ella introduces herself two songs in, admitting to the crowd that she had just downed three quarters of a Red Bull. She’s determined to make the most of a Tuesday night, asking her audience with a grin if they’re “ready to cry” before singing “Stoned at The Nail Salon”. She seems to be aware of the party she’s throwing: her shows are regarded by many as a public weeping spot, or what Gen Z would call a “therapy dupe” on TikTok. It’s been six years since Ella last toured Australia, and she says, in her charming Kiwi accent, that she just wants to “catch up” with everyone here.
This time, Ella is here to tour her third child, Solar Power. Solar Power is mellow, gentle, and dreamy (it’s the “Weed album”, as Ella calls it). She decries being famous while finding emotional refuge in a different mode of living on this album, and it feels like a beautiful tribute to her home country, New Zealand. As an adult, Ella seems to have found the perfect formula to achieve the level of Zen she embodies — it constitutes sunshine, sand, and throwing your phone into the ocean.
There are more quiet understandings than emotional chaos and more answers than questions on this record compared to its critically acclaimed predecessor, Melodrama. It’s clear that both Solar Power and time have unravelled a vibrance and steadiness in Ella that we haven’t seen – she’s the most buoyant she’s ever been, both sonically and physically. The Ella dancing to “Ribs” in front of us is free-spirited and confident — a departure from her younger (and heartbroken) self, who was almost exclusively draped in black garments and knotted in stage fright while touring Melodrama at the time – despite the unforgiving criticism around her latest work, Ella seems to feel the most connected to herself and her creative practice right now, and she’s mesmerising to watch.
There’s one thing that Ella hasn’t grown out of, and to my relief, she promises she never will: her honesty is still as lacerating as it was when she wrote Melodrama, and if there’s one thing you can count on Ella to do, it’s to wear her heart on her sleeve. Under a spotlight, Ella begins her speech about big emotions and how much they consume her (she did say earlier in the show that it felt like she was giving a Ted-Talk, such as “how to overthink for 75 days”), before instructing everyone to bring theirs to the surface in the breakdown of the next song, “Hard Feelings/Loveless”. And what she says next sends chills down my spine:
“Now, keep it or let it go”.
It’s not new advice, nor is it life-changing, but that’s why it works: Ella actively rejects the role of a saviour (evident through the lyrics of her song “The Path”) but is still well-loved by her generation for her sweet and sincere wisdom, and how she offers it: blunt but gentle.
“There are a whole lot of voices telling us, ‘don’t be this, be like this’…and I just want to say to you that you are so fucking perfect and you do not need to be pushed into a form,”
“Be the freak that you are, have the weird shit about you that you have, don’t lose that.”
Coming from most celebrities, it would feel obligatory or rehearsed, but with Ella, you know with every bone in your body that she cares enough to mean what she says.
They say don’t meet your heroes, but I’m glad I saw mine perform live. I am replete of nostalgia throughout the night as Ella plays all the songs I know and love. Knowing what I lived through just to get to this moment, hearing “Ribs” and “Supercut” live not just once but twice raises a tide of emotions in me, and I just let myself cry. I’ve been in awe of Ella since I was a teenager – “Ribs” on Pure Heroin has been the soundtrack of every summer I’ve lived so far, and “The Louvre” on Melodrama reminds me of my younger self, who stomached every word her crushes said. I deeply resonate with the way Ella identifies herself as her mother’s child, I aspire to be half the intricate storyteller she is, and like many others, her records have perfectly captured and brought meaning to some of my most formative years. Right now, as I step into what feels like a black hole (in other words, adulthood, as we know it), “Secrets of A Girl (Who’s seen it all)” on Solar Power affirms that growing old isn’t as scary as it seems.
“Cause all the music you loved at sixteen you’ll grow out of,” sings Ella in “Stoned at the Nail Salon”, but I beg to differ – I know that despite whatever heartache I go through in 5, 10 or 20 years, as long as I’m dancing with Ella, I’ll be alright.
Show Date: 03.15.23 | Sydney, Australia @ Aware Super Theatre | Lorde is the embodiment of sunshine