"We love you Lana!" "Marry me!" "You're sooo awesome!" "I love turtles!" (huh?)
When an artist inspires that kind of slavish, obsequious, at times bizarre devotion -- especially at the usually jaded South by Southwest festival -- they're pretty much set for the next couple of decades. And it's to Lana Del Rey's lasting credit that after a rocky career launch that would have crushed many equally talented artists -- a quick rise to fame with her webcam-shot video for "Video Games" that was the 2011 equivalent of a meme, then a disastrous Saturday Night Live performance that nearly finished her off -- she's managed to cultivate, nurture and sustain that fanbase with a deft and artful combination of mystique, titillation, gratification and most of all, challenging and ever-evolving music. She seems to know exactly what her fans want and the exact time to give it to them, and thus she has a patient and trusting audience that has followed her from the sophisticated pop of Born to Die to the Dan Auerbach-helmed Ultraviolence to the slow, orchestrated, Morricone-esque landscapes of 2015's Honeymoon -- which most of the unconverted said was boring -- and appreciate the left turns for what they are, analyzing her provocative and often hilarious lyrics (sample: "Elvis is my daddy, Marilyn's my mother, Jesus is my bestest friend"), knowing that they'll probably get something more instantly gratifying later.
So it was surprising that at Friday's Apple Music gig -- officially announced just the day before but buzzed about all week -- she delivered a crowd-pleasing, nine-song greatest-hits set instead of the preview of her forthcoming, "more socially aware" fifth full-length that advance word promised. Clad in an angelic white dress, she showed remarkable confidence and poise, even in front of a clearly adoring crowd: She smiled and laughed a lot, joked with audience members off-mic and wandered out into the crowd four times. She nailed all of her steep high notes and strapped on a Gibson Flying V for an unaccompanied version of "Yayo" ("That's why I like to let [bandmember] Blake [Lee] play guitar," she joked at the end). And after "Video Games," she said, "We've got one more -- a new song that just came out," played a flawless version of "Love," and that was it: No encore, despite the crowd chanting "One more song!" until the house lights came up. And even then, nobody seemed disappointed.
Born to Die
Shades of Cool