Photographs by Ming Wu from Ottawa Folk Fest.
With the calendar flipped over to September, the hot weather seems to be gone for good. The crisp fall breeze was in full effect with all the concertgoers descending down to Echo Beach wearing jackets, sweaters and toques. The cool air coming off the lake wasn’t numbing, but just enough to make you well aware of your surroundings and make your senses pay more attention to everything else.
The crowd skewed mostly younger, with Lorde’s fan base around the same age as the seventeen-year-old singer. Plenty of parents dotted the crowd to see the feminist pop icon. Majical Cloudz was the opening act and I worried that the duo’s music would not mesh well with the antsy crowd, but I was proven wrong right away. I should have figured that the minimalist electronic sounds of Majical Cloudz would fit in with Lorde’s minimalist pop music. With nothing but a single keyboard rig and a few spotlights Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto went to work. Welsh had a bit of an awkward introduction that was quite funny and immediately endeared him to the crowd. “We’re Canadian, and most of you probably are too.” Welsh bobbed in and out of the spotlights clutching the cord of his microphone to add extra emphases with dramatic tugging. The band’s lyrics of life, death and love oozed over the crowd. I liken the band’s music to the film The Wizard of Oz because they sound like a terrible nightmare filled with monsters. Just like in the film, the monsters and characters are based on real people, and once you know who’s in your nightmare, it makes perspective that much easier to come by.
In between songs Welsh would listen to random crowd members shouting at him and he would take time to acknowledge and respond back to them. “The next song is for the people that know us. Actually it is for everyone. The whole set is for everyone!” Otto’s synths rumbled over the crowd like a warm blanket, it acted as everyone’s personal safety net from dark lyrics at times. Turns Turns Turns sounded happier than it does on record where it normally has a hint of desperation to the vocals. Hearing Mister live was incredibly powerful and it truly showcased what a fantastic band Welsh and Otto have created. The deeply personal lyrics and the soothing beat personify what is so great about them. As they announced that they were launching into their final song the crowd gave a hearty ‘awww’, which Welsh enjoyed, stating so far Toronto’s show is the only crowd that was upset they were leaving. The bands OK Computer-meets-Ambien sounds won the crowd over and this tour will probably help grow their fan base like they never could have dreamed about.
When Lorde came out the young girls in attendance screeched their approval. She wore all black and accented it with a large black cape and was ready to being her reign in Toronto. She started out her set with Glory and Gore and didn’t slow down for the night as each song quickly lead into the next. During the chorus she had a freak out dance, swooshing her cape around and letting her giant mess of curly hair fly about. Fans sung along to almost every song from White Teeth Teens to Tennis Court to 400 Lux and on as they live the everyday life devoid of celebrity that she sings about. Even though the night was getting later and the temperature dropping Lorde was determined to make sure everyone enjoyed themselves. “Thanks so much for coming out. I know it is cold and I’m so grateful. Lorde was flanked by only a drummer and a synth player and was able to recreate her album sounds perfectly. The drummer was especially on point since adding a live beat is more enjoyable and distinguishable to a brain. The show unfortunately was a little heavy on the backing vocals so sometimes it seemed like Lorde the person, was there to support Lorde the pre-recorded singer. The fans didn’t seem to care or even notice but when someone is famous for having a really strong voice and is the anti-pop star, you expect them to rely less on tracks and more on their own skills. Lorde playing a cover of Flashing Lights, the Kanye West song, was amusing and fun to hear though.
During Still Sane a bubble machine roared to life, but instead of regular bubbles these were filled with smoke. When they burst the smoke wafted over the crowd creating an eerie effect. “Every time I come to Toronto I have such a good time. I try to see Toronto a little bit every time” After expounding the virtues of our fair city, she went on an extended poetic rant on how growing up is scary and adulthood always seems like the worst possible outcome for life. She led into Ribs, a song that matches the content of her speech.
Most artists save their biggest hits for either the last song of the night or the encore, but Lorde always does things a bit differently as she played Royals three songs before finishing her set. After having changed for a second time Lorde went from wearing all white into all red. A marquee sign lit up saying ‘TONIGHT THE TRAGIC AND WONDERFUL PROCESSION OF LORDE’ and large red theatre curtains became illuminated. After Royals, came Teams, which was accompanied by purple strobe lights and confetti shooting over the crowd. The slight wind carried the confetti all the way to the back of the spacious Echo Beach. With no encore Lorde ended her brisk set with World Alone. The young girls in awe rushed the merch tent to get their hands on the various shirts and other products being sold to advertise how they bore witness to pop music’s new queen bee.
Thanks to Live Nation Ontario for media access.