Thursday, 28 September 2017

can you hear the violence?: lorde at manchester apollo

for something that i'd been looking forward to for months, the night felt like a blur, rushing past me in a haze of neon lights, sequins and star-shaped confetti. 

the entire day had felt like a rush; after i took way too long to get ready (what's new), my mother and i found ourselves stuck in a seemingly endless stream of traffic on the way to the o2 apollo, where lorde would play the first show of her melodrama world tour. i spent the whole journey checking my watch, praying we'd make it before the support act khalid took to the stage at 8pm. 

eventually we arrived around half seven, joining the back of another never ending queue outside the venue, but our late arrival meant that it began to move fairly quickly and we weren't stood freezing to death in the cold. it was only once we'd gone through the arduous ticket and bag check, been patted down by an overly friendly security guard - her insistence that i "relax" only putting me more on edge - and made a trip to the toilets (pro tip: head to the upstairs toilets for a shorter queue) that i was able to take stock of the people around me and let it sink in that i was finally going to see melodrama live, six months after i first heard green light, which went on to soundtrack my last few weeks at uni. 

but first khalid took to the stage with his 80s-inspired pop and hip hop mix. though i was only familiar with his - admittedly very good - song american teen, i did enjoy the rest of his set and have made a mental note to listen to more of his music. then came the agonising wait before lorde appeared, in which the crowd jostled to try and find the perfect spot. confident that i could just about see the stage, a six foot guy stood directly in front of me, putting a dampener on my mood. he eventually moved out of my line of sight, but once the lights went out it took a couple of songs before i really got into the swing of things. 

wearing a suitably witchy, stevie nicks-inspired black dress, lorde stormed the stage to the sound of her 2015 collaboration with disclosure, magnets. i'd not heard the song for such a long time that it took me a minute to realise what she was singing, and it was a slightly anti-climatic start to the gig, not helped by the sea of iphones that recorded every movement she made. i know it makes me sound so old and boring, but why can't people just watch a gig without needing to video every single second? my gig neighbours also soured my mood, as they talked through the majority of the show. why pay to see a gig only to spend most of it talking to your friends? for me, going to see someone live is such an immersive, intense experience; just being in the same room as one of my favourite artists feels like an honour, and there's no greater thrill than finally getting to belt out the words to a song you've had on repeat for months at the top of your lungs. those around me knew hardly any of the lyrics, and i think it was the lack of ~community~ that meant i didn't enjoy the experience as much as i'd hoped i would. 

nevertheless, lorde powered through second single tennis court, hard feelings and one of my favourites, buzzcut season, which was spoilt slightly by the girl next to me proclaiming all the way through that it was her favourite song, rather than actually listening to it and Being Present. next was sober - how i wish i'd been the opposite -before it all went dark again and she reappeared some time later in a new, all white ensemble, a complicated neon structure towering behind her, while the melodrama sign above flickered on and off, illuminating certain letters but not others, like a faulty sign in one of those american diners i'd love to visit someday. 

the second part of the show was by far the most emotional; i'd anticipated some slight tearing up, but as soon as the synth-driven ribs started i felt my face crumple, unable to hold back any longer. i'd very nearly cried in public listening to it on my way home the day before so i felt a little less exposed amongst the crowd, but still a tad self-conscious. however all of that fell away when she sat down to deliver a speech about Not Giving Up and Chasing Your Dreams. somehow it should have been cliche, but lorde has a way with words quite unlike anyone else. 

i couldn't see her at all during the speech, but as i felt the tears fall from my eyes i wondered if she too was holding back, or finally allowing herself to release the complex stream of emotions melodrama encapsulates. i was a total mess by this point, and this was before the song had even started, but luckily the couple next to me were also crying, seemingly playing out their relationship issues for all to see, so i didn't feel quite as stupid when my ugly-crying face came out. i'm just thankful i was wearing so much make-up; not wanting to smudge it all over my face was the only reason i managed to hold myself together through liability and its reprise

she surprised me by going on to play a world alone - for the first time since 2014 according to setlist.fm - and though it's not a track i've played on repeat, it's one i'm definitely going to revisit. any dads in the audience would have been thrilled to hear her next song; a haunting cover of in the air tonight by phil collins of genesis fame. then another interlude, more darkness, suspense building for the next track, unsure if my heart could take much more. lorde reappeared in a bright pink outfit bedazzled with sequins, the neon lighting also changing to match, and i just about survived the emotional outpourings of supercut and perfect places, my favourite tracks from melodrama. as the former took hold, i wished my best friend was standing next to me, but instead i played a supercut of us in my head, blinked away any remaining tears and allowed myself to let go of any doubts i've been having about our futures and if we're strong enough to survive it. 

these feelings continued deep into team, another often overlooked but still much loved track from pure heroine, and the final track green light, which was probably my favourite moment because i chose to ignore the voices around me and fully Go For It, belting out every word while they most likely looked on, bemused. the encore was short and sweet, like a punch to the chest as she performed loveless for the first time. she was gone before i could give her a final round of applause; i held back, sure she was going to do another song, but that was it, the lights went up, and life carried on. 

feet aching like i'd just done an eight hour shift at work, head pounding like i'd sunk one too many sambucas, my mind went into overdrive as we left the venue, cold air hitting us like the aforementioned shot as i tried to understand why lorde, someone i've never met and who is younger than me by nearly two years, understands me so well. given the small venue, she made the show into a spectacle with the outfit changes and neon lights, but underneath all that i know she's just like me, and the rest of the crowd who know how it feels to be at rock bottom; to have nothing but music to pull you out of whatever darkness envelops you. 

i wouldn't wish it on anyone, but i think to truly understand music in the way i do, to love it with your whole entire being, to have nothing else to live for, tying your sense of identity to a particular band or artist, you have to reach the point of no return. when i feel like i won't make it through the night, music is my only escape. even now at nearly twenty two, i still feel it as deeply as  did at twelve when i first pressed play on viva la vida and attended my first ever coldplay concert.

tuesday night was the start of lorde's tour but also of my self belief, of finally realising that it's okay to hurt. it's okay to listen to this on repeat and lose yourself in the process, as long as you find your way out and back into the light. 

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