Friday, November 18, 2011
Lana Del Rey / Jake Bugg / Seye Adelekan @HMV Institute, Thursday 17th November
Predictably this gig was so sold out that I wouldn’t have been surprised if Lana herself hadn’t got in. Simply the hottest ticket in town. Before the delightful Miss Del Rey though the crowd were warmed up with some fine solo singer /songwriter stuff from Jake Bugg (shades of The Coral’s jaunty scouse pop in there)and Seye (“pronounced Cher”) Adelekan. Particularly liked his Legs Like Beyonce number...even if the subject of the track makes me want to seal up my ears with cement.
This evening was all about one person though. Arguably as famous right now for the endless wittering on about whether she’s ‘real’ enough or merely the product of an undersexed marketing department one thing’s for certain...in Video Games Lana Del Rey has delivered one of THE songs of the year. Oozing fading Hollywood glamour it’s an instantly memorable theme tune for the self proclaimed ‘gangster Nancy Sinatra’, set to become one of those tunes that the world and his wife tries to cover (so far Kasabian and Bombay Bicycle Club are amongst the bands that have had a bash...come on Dappy, what’s keeping you?). Despite her seemingly rapid rise to fame Lana’s actually been around for a while though. In a previous life she traded under the name of Lizzy Grant (her real name’s Elizabeth Grant), playing dates in 2008 and delivering a low key EP back in 2009. After going to ground for a while she emerged, butterfly like and plump of lip, this year with Video Games, an instant You Tube hit (6,185,854 views so far...and counting). Okay, that’s the history and the hype covered, tonight was one of the first chances to see this potential icon in the making in the flesh. Front page news or classified ad?
Flanked by two giant white balloons (acting as makeshift screens for video clips to be projected on throughout the show) she came onstage, uttered a simple “Love You” in response to some similar declarations of affection and launched into Without You/China Doll (there seems to be some debate as to what this song’s called). Boy, the girl can sing. Possessing that same kind of other worldliness that Kate Bush has, and capable of a similar level of vocal gymnastics, she’s also, it has to be said, as sexy as Jessica Rabbit. Now that’s sexy. Being a hottie will only get you so far though and having only one big song does not a career make. The haters can toddle off and diss someone else though, remarkably Video Games isn’t her best one, vocally or lyrically. Born To Die sees the first of her split personality vocals, veering from tough country tinged to little girl lost in a beat. There’s the spirit of the chanteuse in there too and, whilst she’s no Piaf just yet, it’s not difficult to see her developing that same gut wrenching emotional intensity. Oui, vraiment! Next up came Blue Jeans, a David Lynchian trawl through shattered love and the American dream starting with Lana’s full on breathy vocal then moving on to a bewitching Tori Amos wibblyness. Just gorgeous. When she sang “I will love you ‘till the end of time” you could almost hear 600 hearts skip a beat. Next up, a track she introduced as “my favourite”, Million Dollar Man. Again it’s a damaged love song but this time with more of a laid back jazzy feel, a little My Funny Valentine in places. Vocally it was arguably the performance of the night with some truly ‘raising the hairs on the back of the neck’ moments. Video Games got the reception it deserved and was 100% stronger than her slightly tentative live rendition on Jools Holland a few weeks back. I’m guessing it’s not an easy song to sing, being pretty low key for most of the time and calling for tired restraint rather than the kind of powerful vocal Lana’s so clearly capable of. But, to see one of the most strangely magical songs of the year performed with such a light touch was...well...wow. The 40’s Hollywood meets hip hop mashup of You Can Be The Boss was perhaps the least convincing song of the night but no less enjoyable for that.
I guess you can’t expect a two hour spectacular this early on in her career and Team Del Rey are clearly going for the old less is more approach so the set just scraped past the 45 minute mark ending with Off To The Races with Lana imploring to object of her affections to “kiss me on my open mouth” whilst provocatively lifting the hem of her baby doll black and white dress. Ahem...may need to have a lie down for a moment (cue 15 minute ‘break’). Right, back...anyway, quality tops quantity though and there’s simply no denying her talent. The cynic in me almost wanted to find some fault tonight but I couldn’t. Damn. I loved it. Every last second. Whether she goes on to conquer the world or ends up playing in a dive bar somewhere way, way off Hollywood Boulevard tonight’s gig will go down as something truly special.
She might be taking inspiration from some of the most glamorous stars of the past but Del Rey could well end up fulfilling a similar role in the future. Hoo-Rey for Hollywood eh?