At the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, an eclectic crowd of roughly 10,000 gathered in buzzy anticipation. Overhead, the sky deepened from rosy pink through to witchy mauve, a variation of enchantment every time you looked up, each shade fitting for the mystical figure we were waiting to see. A pleasant breeze had overtaken the heat endured during line-up. It was forecasted to storm, and although I’d dutifully packed a raincoat, I knew if it did, I wouldn’t want to wear it. Dancing in a storm seemed too perfect, too timely (so naturally, it didn’t in the end).
If you have listened to the album (and you should), wouldn’t you agree that Melodrama is identifiable by the recklessness of a thunder storm? Doesn't a storm align with the name, the emotions the album contains in spades and in turn induces in its listener? Both distinctly ethereal and achingly human, Melodrama, released four years after Lorde’s first studio album, Pure Heroine, feels predominantly like an evolved testament to her visionary talents. Both sound and topical scope differ fundamentally from the implosive nature of its predecessor. (This was to be expected. In the inaugural episode of the Rookie Magazine podcast, among other interviews, Lorde explained her preference to wait until “the next phase of [her] life” to make music again, citing the unwanted potential for new projects to mimic old). Pure Heroine’s opening lyric was Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk? It was a regal eye roll, a half-ironic magnification of enclosing suburbia, toasting several kinds of intimacy, broaching the unnerving contradictions of growing up. Lorde was sixteen years old with an enthrallingly low, mildly husky voice that sounded like a secret.
If Lorde was a sinisterly aestheticising partial-wallflower before, here she is a hostess in bright colours, alternately pained and smirking. Melodrama is a whirlwind of formative sentience, and Lorde retains a poet's ability to encapsulate immense depth in a lyric. Green Light, the single which declared her widely pined-for return, centres a stadium-sized ascension into late heartbreak, helmed by jangly piano. Homemade Dynamite is smoky and shady, a frisson of flippant flirtation at a house party relegating the loss. Supercut—truly invigorating—feels like barrelling in a topless car down a cool, empty highway at 2am. And then there is the coruscating hedonism of the eruptive closer, Perfect Places. These are songs that serve as portals to something cosmic. As if they were late night conversations potent with eloquence, you listen and become a confidant, ushered into her secret world.
The night is a rapturous sweep of adrenaline, over far too soon. Lorde, clad in shimmery blue sequins, kicks the evening off with Homemade Dynamite, heralded onstage by a triumphant communal roar. Non-Melodrama performances include Magnets (her 2015 collaboration with Disclosure), Ribs, Team, Royals, A World Alone. Her guitarist is summoned to assist with a sultry rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire, knit with verses from 400 Lux. I sing-shout along to the point of hoarseness, dancing as fervidly as my pocket of standing space will allow.
Lorde's stage presence is profoundly hypnotic. She skips and bounds, accentuating words with sequential air-punches and looping arm movements, as if gleefully casting spells. Her passion radiates; it is transparent on her face, which contorts to Melodrama's personal weight, her voice as ensnaring as it is on her records. If not more so. When she takes a seat and speaks to the audience, the crammed arena stills into intimacy. “This year has been so…” she grapples for the word for a moment. "Fluorescent."
"I sip the drink, I lie to you, I go to secret worlds…" I hurriedly type the words into my phone as I hear them, a voiceover accompanying footage like a dream-sequence that materialises on the dual screens during costume changes: flowers bursting into bloom, a redheaded pair splashing laxly in a pool, shaky shots of Lorde’s eyes—a feat of self-assurance spiked with mischief—fixed to yours. It is a clear nod to summer, a recurring reference on the album. Debuting with the first love-struck line of The Louvre, revisited during supercharged heart-crusher Hard Feelings/Loveless, mentioned later in the vulnerable lull, more sobering than Sober, of Liability. Dark has fallen. The air is just warm enough, and completely still as if hushed in reverence. "We are guided and divided by love," Lorde says. "I want to see it, in colour." ♫