Lana Del Rey pleases the faithful at the PNE Amphitheatre

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At the PNE Amphitheatre on Sunday, May 25

Past the trees twinkling with fairy lights, there is a land where every girl wreathes her flowing, bum-length hair with a flower crown. And the carnival aroma of popcorn and weed wafts up to the purple sky, shining with springtime mist.

No, this isn’t teenage-hippie heaven. This was Father John Misty and Lana Del Rey at Vancouver’s PNE Amphitheatre, where hipster pop queen Del Rey ruled a realm of screaming fans as part of her tour to support upcoming album Ultraviolence.

As theatrical folksinger Father John Misty took the stage, rain clouds brewed over the old red, white, and blue roller coaster track that snaked around the amphitheatre stands. The setting evoked the feel of a run-down theme park well suited to Misty and Del Rey’s faded Americana.

Swooping right into epic ballad “Only Son of the Ladies’ Man”, Misty sounded great—although the absence of his backing band, who help to fill out the sound of his big melodies, stripped away some of his lustre. Armed simply with an acoustic guitar and a country-bumpkin hat, Misty was a bearded fish out of water playing for a pop-hungry crowd decked out like a community gathering of fashion bloggers.

However, not to be dissuaded by the loud audience chatter, Misty cracked self-deprecating jokes (“If you keep pushing each other, then I won’t play this boring folk music for you”) and borrowed a flower crown from the crowd to wear for a few songs. It didn’t exactly bridge the gap, but it was mighty cute.

Then, the lady of the hour sauntered on-stage, announcing, “Hey, Vancouver! We finally made it.” Dripping honey from her bee-stung pout, Del Rey opened with “Cola”, crooning the infamous lyric, “My pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola,” among other gems such as, “Don’t treat me rough, treat me really niceys.” Suffice to say, the self-proclaimed “gangsta Nancy Sinatra” could use some help with her rhymes.

Not being known for her moves, Del Rey mostly swayed and slinked around, playing with her Titian tresses, adorned with turquoise roses. Donning a simple black-velvet dress, she was slightly outdone by the silken gowned, look-alike drag queen in the mosh pit. But Del Rey had only to smile in the direction of some fans for them to chant her name, or wave to the audience with her talon nails for 30 girls to shriek and wave back.

Ever since her hilarious SNL fuck-up in 2012, followed shortly by her best-selling debut Born to Die, the dark-Hollywood lounge-singer alter ego of Lizzy Grant has been both jeered and cheered. Here’s the thing: no matter how much Del Rey wants to be the hip-hop–inspired Marilyn Monroe, her awkward live presence and unsteady voice just ain’t it. Her breathy, jazzy croon is still marred by off-key falsetto, clumsy bum notes, and that bizarre, put-on baby voice that oozes an overwhelming sense of ickiness.

That said, Del Rey sounded miles better last night than on record or any earlier performance. Awash in sea-foam-green lighting during the Walt Whitman–inspired “Body Electric”, the songstress wielded a newfound control of her instrument, also benefiting from the sonic backbone of a full rhythm-and-blues band. The achingly lush, melodramatic melodies of “Summertime Sadness” and “Video Games” were obvious highlights too, prompting euphoric dancing and heartfelt singing along, as cryptic clips from Del Rey’s film-noir-like videos played on the backdrop screen.

“West Coast”, the first single off the upcoming album, sounded sumptuous in its L.A.-warm, guitar-infused layers. On the other hand, Ultraviolence’s title track, which quotes the Crystals’ “He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)”, sounded like a repulsive, creepy romanticization of domestic violence. For the sake of Del Rey’s mostly young, female fans, let’s hope that isn’t the case, although the singer’s past work is already sadly swamped with themes of self-destruction and retro sexism.

Closing on a positive note, the glam-trash siren led her band into an extended, rocked-out jam of “National Anthem”. And although a good third of the crowd began filing out of the arena before the song was even over, Del Rey spent the last few minutes of the show rewarding her fans in the mosh pit, capping off the night by signing autographs for her ecstatic front-row admirers.

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mpah

May 26, 2014 at 5:52pm

anyone know where to read a review written by someone that doesn't hate the artist they're reviewing? Thanks

Markfornataro

May 26, 2014 at 7:21pm

Maybe Pepsi-Cola realized people were getting bored with the Pepsi vs. Coke taste test challenge so they sought Del Rey's help to make the test more interesting.

Josh

May 27, 2014 at 9:43am

"mpah" Totally hit it on the nose. Tired of these COUGH-COUGH- "journalists" - who pretend to be objective but clearly can't appreciate unique music. Let's see you sing live, bud.

Congrats on the Wikipedia research, by the way. That was some insightful work.

supernintendo chalmers

May 27, 2014 at 10:14am

Lana Del Rey fans are the most sensitive flowers, who can't seem to accept that there are people out there who do not idolize their queen as much as they do, and anyone who does have a differing opinion is accused of hate.

Leon

May 27, 2014 at 11:28am

supernintendo chalmers my thoughts exactly the fans of this singer seem to be very vile, hopefully when they get into their teens they will look back an realise how narcissistic they/it all was.

Carla

May 27, 2014 at 1:00pm

How things change! So this new generation is supporting domestic violence in the lyrics, yet 50 years ago the Crystals song was banned for the same lyrics. I thought we were progressing, why on earth is there a woman promoting domestic violence in 2014, what's happened? I really hope no one supports this.

dont think so

May 27, 2014 at 7:21pm

I dont think she's supporting it. She's presenting a messed up character. Duh, she's playing a character.

Anon

May 28, 2014 at 12:58am

I don't know Ms. Del Rey's work well since I'm too old to be following today's pop music. Yet, I must agree that when reading this review, I was constantly distracted by the author's lack of professionalism, and her contempt for the artist. Since when does morality or political correctness enter the evaluation of an artist's work? Also, unless you are a classical musician, there is no need to sing or play flawlessly (especially live) to do good and original music. By constantly using terms such as "f*cked-up," "bizarre," "creepy," etc., the author appears to be biased against, and unsuited to evaluate this artist' work. Each musical style/band appeals to a different audience, and Ms. Del Rey is clearly successful at what she is doing. It is okay to not like her music but this shouldn't affect the author's review to the point of undermining her journalistic credibility.

Hey

May 28, 2014 at 4:08am

You all sound like Lana Del Rey fans! Pretentious, humourless, and really fucking boring. Enjoy!

Tiger

May 28, 2014 at 4:52am

"don't think so" actually Jim is Jimmy Gnecco, Lizzy Grant's old boyfriend who she sings about and she always uses Bradley Soileau in her videos, cause he looks like Jimmy Gnecco. She spoke about it in many interviews. She romanticizes about these types of violent relationships, it's all very 1950's which is her shtick.

I'm sure if she actually lived as a woman back in the era she romanticizes about she would have a very different opinion to that of her outlook now living in a 'more equal' era. It just shows her immaturity and unintelligence as the era she now lives in was fought for by woman that she manages to belittle and degrade in these songs. I'm not a fan because of this song and others like it, I think it gives teenage girls the wrong impression.

She needs a good history lesson as do her fans. Her fans say she's so different to the mainstream, that she is classy and doesn't over sexualize herself in the way she presents herself but she's still selling music via a sexist approach, which is much worse than scantily clad females as it's glamorizing sex AND violence of women but most of her teenage fans are not experienced or intellectual enough to see this. Oh and didn't she do a full nude spread for GQ men's magazine anyway!

Being retro, overly manicured, wearing pretty dresses and singing about themes of sex and violence and your pussy tasting like a soft drink does not make you a classy woman! I really worry about this new generation it's SO based on aesthetics, it's scary. Lizzy Grant admits she isn't a feminist almost like it's a dirty word, there is nothing wrong with being a feminist which just means you want to be treated as an equal, Lizzy Grant should remember that she only has the platform she has now thanks to a whole load of feminists (male and female) and on her platform as Lana Del Rey she is spiting in the face of that.

Ultraviolence
He hit me and it felt like a kiss
Jim raised me up
He hurt me but it felt like true love
Give me all of that ultraviolence

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