She’s got a lust for life, and she helped bring warmth to a chilly evening at Little Caesars Arena Wednesday
With temps in the teens, it was a far cry from summertime sadness outside Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday night. But Lana Del Rey did her best to blast the wintertime blues with a sun-soaked, 100-minute set that was like a day at the beach inside.
“We can pretend it’s hot,” the singer said near the close of the night as she launched into “Summertime Sadness,” the 2012 hit that helped propel her to stardom. Her stage setup also was doing its part to bring thoughts of warmer times: it was decked out like a grotto, adorned with beach chairs, rock formations, two palm trees and tall reeds of grass. Images of shore lines and waves crashing onto the beach were projected onto the stage, and video screens behind Del Rey showed sand-lined coasts and classic shots of California.
Del Rey took the stage to the sounds of “13 Beaches” from last year’s “Lust for Life” album, decked out in a sparkly silver top that shimmered like a disco ball, matching shoes and a black leather skirt. She was joined on stage by two dancers/backup singers and a four-piece band, all of whom accentuated Lana’s bewitching stage presence, where her slightest movements were met with rapturous applause by her fans.
There’s never been much choreography to Del Rey’s live sets; she usually gets by on a simple sway and a twirl, like the flower-crowned girls in her audience. This time around there was more to it, and she and her dancers had some vintage girl group moves worked out — nothing to make Fifth Harmony quake in their heels, but enough to make the Supremes proud.
For “Pretty When You Cry,” Del Rey and her dancers laid on their backs on stage, atop images of the beach, performing choreographed moves shot from above and projected onto the screens at either side of the arena. She rose to her knees for “Cherry,” and with her dancers performed some simple arm motions and hip sways that, for her, count as high performance moves.
There’s a performance art aspect of Del Rey that is central to the enjoyment of her music and of her stage persona. She’s a character, a concoction of the woman born Lizzy Grant, who sings dark, romantic, dreamy songs about love, Americana and cherry cola. She’s a ’60s throwback but thoroughly modern in her approach, and she often plays the naive, boy-crazy or just-plain-crazy role in her songs. She’s like a David Lynch concoction filtered through the prism of Nicolas Winding Refn, and she’s all about a glamourous, tortured ideal of love.
You come to her concert to play along, to be a part of the act, to bask in her glow. You’ll never see her sweat, that’s not what her shows are about; there are other singers for that. Del Rey’s different. Other performers might crouch to the floor and it won’t register. When she does it, it’s an event.
Through all that, she’s comfortable on stage, and on Wednesday she broke into several fits of laughter, one that caused her to drop several lines during “Ride” after she reacted to a fan professing his love from the crowd. Late in the show, she stepped off stage and into the front row to sign autographs and take selfies with fans while reverb rang out from the stage. Selfie breaks are usually an interruption to the flow of a show, but here it felt natural. It was hard to begrudge the fans up front who wanted a few moments with their queen.
Returning to the stage, Lana sang “Video Games,” one of her early breakthrough songs, from a swing suspended from the rafters. She later sang an a cappella version of “Get Free” before dipping into an early song, “Serial Killer,” and her closer, “Off to the Races.”
“I can’t tell you what it means to be here with you tonight in one of the coolest cities in the whole world,” she told the crowd. As she exited, she took with her flowers and other gifts bestowed on her by her fans.
The audience was thinner than it was during her last visit to the area, when she sold out DTE Energy Music Theatre in May 2015. On Wednesday, the arena’s entire upper deck was curtained off, and the fans on the floor were scrunched together so tightly that the floor appeared to be half-full. Del Rey’s not meant for January; she’s a summertime gal through and through. But she still helped warm up a cold night.