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“Video Games” singer Lana Del Rey performed the first show of her three day Los Angeles residency last night. The sold out El Rey Theater show was Del Rey's biggest American audience since her infamous and awkward Saturday Night Live performances earlier in the year. While the usually shy singer let nerves get the best of her on SNL, she emerged confident and vocally on-point for her first intimate show in L.A., singing material from her latest album, Born to Die.
Before the hip songstress took to the stage, rock and folk artist Jarrod Gorbel opened the show with a violinist backing him and his guitar. “I'm going to warm you up with a few songs,” he said. Gorbel's voice had the raw roughness of The Strokes' Julian Casablancas, but with a calm control. His chill music was the perfect opener to Del Rey's upcoming melancholic tunes. Gorbel received the biggest crowd reception with the song, “Miserable Without You,” which detailed his recent move from New York to California.
Del Rey later walked onto the palm tree and shrub-covered stage in a white dress and matching heels with her hair done up “big beauty queen style.” She approached the microphone with a big smile and immediately went into performing the track, “Blue Jeans.” The song set the tone for the rest of the night, with the hip-hop beats from all of her tunes removed and replaced with violins and a piano, making the live engagement even more intimate with Del Rey's stripped renditions. Her live version of “Blue Jeans,” was vocally faithful to the studio edit with a few vocal flourishes here and there.
On this momentous night, Del Rey also premiered a new soulful song called “Body Electric." She followed the new song with “Born to Die,” which sports big production her album, but sounded better in its sparse performance. Del Rey got the crowd going wild when she insinuated smoking a joint to the lyric, “Let's go get high.” During “Lolita,” another gesture got the crowd going when Del Rey pretended to touch herself for a second in the sly performance. She moved effortlessly around the stage during her concert and seemed very comfortable with her L.A. audience.
“Summertime?” Del Rey asked the crowd about the upcoming season before performing the song, “Summertime Sadness.” While Del Rey's voice cracked a few times during her SNL performance, she delivered a pitch perfect vocal during the orchestral version of “Summertime Sadness,” as she swayed to the music. Every song during Del Rey's set was accompanied with various vintage video clips that matched the music's lyrics, much like the cut-and-splice aesthetic behind the "Video Games" music video. It was a perfect visual to match her minimalistic show.
The soft spoken singer was short on the chit chat during her show, asking the L.A. audience how they were doing along with a few other comments, but she was big on the vocals. Del Rey performed “Million Dollar Man” and sometimes deviated from the song's quiet and sultry studio vocals with loud and confident verse delivery.
Del Rey performed her breakout song, “Video Games,” a little before the show's end. Gone were the awkward twirls and pitchy vocals from her original SNL performance as Del Rey gave a controlled and calming rendition of “Video Games” on Sunday night. The performance could be considered a redemption for critics, but it was really a validation for Del Rey of her fans' support for the rising indie artist. The crowd sang many of Del Rey's songs during the show, but “Video Games” had the biggest audience participation and those who weren't singing along were cheering for Del Rey along the way.
A stripped but still slick “National Anthem” was the last song Del Rey performed during her set. “I'm leaving now, but I f—cking love you all,” she said tearfully to the L.A. audience. Del Rey then turned around and walked off stage, never to return for an encore. While Del Rey's set was short, she gave it her all in that 45 minutes. Del Rey walked onto that stage not knowing what to expect from her first big gig, but later left the strong show seeing and hearing first-hand the adoration and support her American fans have for the ever-polarizing singer.
“Born to Die”
“Million Dollar Man”
See Lana Del Rey's “Video Games” performance from the El Rey Theater show: