Saturday night at the Sprint Center, pop star Lorde brought her mega-hit “Royals” back to Kansas City and gave it another crown.
“This is our song, and no one else’s,” she told a crowd of about 7,000 fans toward the end of her 100-minute show, arousing a long, hearty cheer.
“Royals,” the song that made her famous, was, according to the New Zealand native, a matter of chance. She saw a photograph in a National Geographic magazine that showed Kansas City sports hero George Brett, wearing a Royals jersey, signing baseballs for fans circa 1976.
That photograph inspired Lorde, born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor, to co-write “Royals” in 2013. The song would become a blockbuster worldwide hit and propel the teenage Lorde into worldwide stardom.
Saturday night, she headlined a show at the Sprint Center, her second headlining show in Kansas City. Her first was in March 2014, when she was 17 years old and sold out the Midland theater and showcased “Pure Heroine,” the debut album that included “Royals,” for which she would win two Grammy awards.
Four years later, Lorde is noticeably more mature and polished as both a songwriter and an entertainer but not above milking some enthusiasm out of a crowd for its connection to what is so far the biggest hit of her career.
This time around, Lorde is touring on “Melodrama,” her second full-length and an album-of-the-year nominee at this year’s Grammy awards show.
Her set list would comprise all of its 11 tracks plus six tracks from “Heroine” and a few covers, including her understated version of Frank Ocean’s “Solo,” which was one of several highlights.
Lorde’s music is a bold strain of pop. Some of it is sleek and minimal, the rest of it is brash and anthemic. Lyrically, most of it tends to be naked, candid and confessional, an array of heart-on-sleeve lyrics about love, romance and sex, the risks involved and the ensuing rewards, consequences and sacrifices.
Though her songs tend to plumb the difficulties of navigating some of life's rougher waters, Lorde is a warm and engaging entertainer and her live show percolates with energy and glee. All night, no one in the arena seemed to be having a better time than Lorde.
She brought with her a team of six dancers who accompanied her throughout most of her set. Some of the choreography was gymnastic and dynamic, some was more interpretive or ballet-like.
During “The Louvre,” they carried her around the stage, holding her above themselves at arms’ length, supine, as she sang skyward. Most of Lorde’s moves, however, seemed more impulsive and improvised — unrehearsed, as if no one were watching.
The only staging apparatus was a large, rectangular glass box, which the dancers employed several times for some antics and which Lorde used as a haven for her two wardrobe changes. During “Yellow Flicker Beat,” the box rose and tilted and swayed as the dancers executed their moves.
The crowd was engaged and enthusiastic throughout, turning the arena into a sparkling bowl of lights (via phones) during “Hard Feelings” and singing along to several numbers, like “Liability,” “Supercut,” “Green Light” and, of course “Royals,” the song that, she said, “changed my (bleeping) life.”
Lorde’s music and her personae have their inspirations and derivations, but she manages to give them a genuine spin of her own, one that purportedly inspired David Bowie to call Lorde the future of music.
That may be an exaggeration, but after observing the enthusiasm of her devoted audience — mostly young girls to suburban moms — it’s obvious she is likely to be popular and relevant for the long haul and evident her career will mean much more than just one blockbuster song with a Kansas City connection.
LORDE'S SET LIST
Ribs; Sober; Homemade Dynamite; Tennis Court; Magnets; Buzzcut Season; 400 Lux; Ribs; The Louvre; Hard Feelings; Yellow Flicker Beat; Writer in the Dark; Solo; Liability; Sober II; Supercut; Royals; Perfect Places; Green Light; Loveless; Precious Metals; Team.