So, Lana Del Rey is hitching her wagon to the Hydro, for a last-minute headline tour arranged without much fuss or fanfare.
Drawn like magnets to her doom-eyed glamour, her teenage fans adorn the outside of the Hydro in a candyfloss coloured throng, tooled up in Doc Martens and decorated in flower crowns. Cigarettes stained with lipstick litter the ground outside the venue.
But for all the youthful brio, tonight teenage rebellion collides with middle-aged date night. And it’s refreshing to see the mix in the crowd, pulled in by the quixotic glamour of her lush, string-laced odes to ill-fated romances and good-looking nihilism.
And whilst the doors swing open at 6.30pm with the promise of a ‘TBC’ support band, there’s nothing planned to keep the crowd occupied until del Rey finally appears. They fizzle away, busying themselves with selfies and friendships forged in the bar queue.
She takes to the stage around 9.05pm, flanked by backing dancers trussed up in 50s bullet bras and beehives. Launching into 'Cruel World' amid frantic screams, she segues straight into the breathy, seductive 'Cherry'.
But things don’t truly kick off until 'Shades Of Cool', where her femme fatale drawl is perfectly matched by a chorus of a thousand Glasgow voices, singing the words back to her. And by the time 'Blue Jeans' begins, she’s bathed in the blue light of phone screens.
'Born To Die' is the first bona-fide hit she indulges us with, and you feel the crowd go wild. I’m kind of knocked out by her voice. On the records, she can sound a little dead-eyed and disengaged, but here, it soars and swoops and seduces the audience wholesale.
She’s a bewitching one. Glamour drips from everything she surrounds herself with – from black and white cinema reels to the vintage dresses, she’s the painted Madonna of a particularly exquisite angst.
'White Mustang' follows – “if I don’t fuck it up” - then 'Ultraviolent', from the plush, lush 'Ultraviolence' (her most cohesive, fully-realised record) borrows the Crystals lyric “he hit me and it felt like a kiss” to re-market toxic, doomed romance to the kids.
It’s all a bit iffy this, peering at violence through a distorted lens, backed up by a video reel of cherry-picked archive footage, flattering lighting and the distracting beauty of the woman delivering it. But let’s not go there.
‘Change’ is introduced as “one of the most personally important songs she wrote on her new record”. Whilst it may be something of a personal revelation, here it feels a little insubstantial – and, on this crowd, the narrative feels a little lost.
She talks of her feelings around the U.S. election, discussing the transition into an altogether darker political climate. These thoughts are interrupted by heckles from the kids, before 'Ride' restores the widescreen soundscape they’re looking for.
But when she breaks into 'Video Games', her breakthrough hit and greatest record, you can hear the baited breath. Some unnecessary piano flourishes detract from its purity, but it retains the timeless quality that brought almost everyone here in the first place. It will never age, and remains a pertinent, beautiful love song.
‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Love’ (“I wrote this for you guys”) carry this intoxicating overture to its conclusion. That’s when it strikes me – to her fans, Lana Del Rey is a way of life. She offers them a way of imbuing drama and beauty into the lesser, smaller moments of life – her songs make you feel like you’re in a movie. Pure escapism. This is music for dreamers.
Once upon a time, she lived in Glasgow, and she appears delighted to be back. “This was once a place I called home, with a special place in my heart,” she muses.
This sort of chat always goes down well, especially in Glasgow. But del Rey isn’t faking, and she certainly has an affinity with a crowd that is alternately lairy and adoring and jacked up on sugary vodka-spiked drinks. She lived here, and she loved here. Her affection is utterly genuine and the crowd, in turn, take her to their gigantic hearts.
Someone runs on stage to give her a hug, she smoothly hops off to cuddle and selfie with her public, she accepts a painting from one of the front-row fans, who might have been one of the kids camping outside the Hydro to ensure they got a good spot. She inspires adoration, and she’s at ease with it. As huge U.S. mega-stars go, I’ve never seen one so at home with a crowd, with such a pure and mutual bond between them.
A punchy 'Summertime Sadness' takes the energy level up a notch, then 'Off To The Races' provides a jittery, high-energy closer to play us out.
The lights come up suddenly, snatching the “one more tune” from the throats of a crowd notoriously compelled to sing it. And that’s it, it’s over. The spell is broken - but not forgotten. And as we file down the stairwells and into the night, rewinding our individual highlights reel, we’re under no illusions that we’ve been enchanted.
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Words: Marianne Gallagher
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