Lana Del Rey offers a masterclass in theatricality to a devoted BST Hyde Park

Lana’s commitment to existing entirely in her own world is commendable, but it’s the effort she goes to to share that world with the ones who want in that makes her a truly magical artist.
Photo credit: Dave Hogan

Lana Del Rey doesn’t really tour. When she does, she’s late, she cancels, or in the case of Glastonbury, she’s cut off. In the week prior to tonight’s show at BST Hyde Park, there was speculation it wouldn’t go ahead at all. None of this has lessened the appetite for a Lana Del Rey show, though. 

Predictably, she is 20 minutes late to her headline slot tonight, the suspense for her arrival heightened by the ridiculously lengthy entrance of the band members, backing vocalists and dancers one by one; it’s a masterclass in theatricality and a campy double-down on Lana’s ethereal nonchalance. 

Realistically, Lana has turned out enough material to do her own ‘Eras’ tour at this point. Seven albums in (plus the countless unreleased tracks the diehards are well acquainted with), and the setlist choices are endless, but it just wouldn’t be Lana Del Rey if she did the obvious. Early singles are the ‘hits’ in question, stacked up beside obscure album tracks like ‘Bartender’ from 2019’s ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’, ‘Pretty When You Cry’ from 2014’s ‘Ultraviolence’, and fan favourites like ‘Cherry’ from 2017’s ‘Lust For Life’, her cult classic status only strengthened by the fans’ unflappable knowledge of every lyric.

While the tour is in support of her recent album ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’, the set only pulls four tracks from it, instead favouring her earliest material, clocking up six tracks from her breakthrough debut ‘Born To Die’. It could be an odd choice, but she knows what the people want, and considering the scarcity of her live performances this side of the Atlantic, there are plenty of fans here who’ve been waiting to hear these tracks live for over a decade. 

There’s also the continuous theme of age running through both Lana’s latest album and this show. ‘…Ocean Blvd’ laid bare worries about feeling like a shelved singer (“Did you know a singer can still be looking like a sidepiece at thirty-three?” in show opener ‘A&W’) and internal conflicts about being unmarried in her thirties (“When’s it gonna be my turn? Don’t forget me” in the title track), it’s interesting how those feelings are represented in the show. Playing mostly older material and displaying her early music videos featuring a younger Lana, the current one sits on the floor and watches them wistfully, suggesting she too misses that era.

No longer the mysterious, lovelorn artist that the ‘Born To Die’ visuals represent, when she sings 2013’s ‘Young and Beautiful’, the “I know you will” pleas now seem directed to the fans who’ve stuck by her all this time, rather than the hypothetical men who, if tonight’s additional revelatory lyrics to ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ (“He was born in December and got married while we were still together”, she shades) are anything to go by, would leave her when the fantasy well ran dry.

The thing about Lana Del Rey is you either get her or you don’t. The ones who do come out in their droves (60,000 of them fill the park tonight), and revel in the ridiculousness of this show, from moments as simple as taking a drag from her vape as she gets her hair done on stage (a nod to the Glastonbury chaos or an intentional part of the show all along?) to acts as momentous as their God herself walking the front row, taking pictures and conversing with the devotees like the People’s Princess of Pop she is, every bit of the show is received with wide-eyed wonder and disbelief that she is actually there.

Lana’s stardom is so often shrouded in controversy that her actual talent goes overlooked. But it’s undoubtedly there, tenfold. Behind all the aesthetics – which, BTW, are entirely earnest, never a ‘bit’ – are unmistakable delicate, moody vocals that can (and do, during ‘The Grants’) build into a powerful gospel belt, sincere lyricism merged with a deep dedication to the USA, brave and unconventional sonic landscapes; bizarrely she’s only gotten more popular the further she’s strayed from indie pop norms.

That artistic transition is starkly represented in the final tracks tonight, first ‘Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’, which sprawls out into a magnificent choir-backed affair, followed by the official introduction to Lana Del Rey, ‘Video Games’, that’s playful, poppier, familiar. Lana’s commitment to existing entirely in her own world is commendable, but it’s the effort she goes to to share that world with the ones who want in that makes her a truly magical artist.