Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Saint Like Jackie-O: Lana Del Rey at the Bell Centre

The line snakes around the entrance to the Centre Bell like a Burmese python — it stretches past Chaussures Le Sabotier, and past Rôtessire St. Hubert, down the street. My head’s on a perpetual swivel; I’m in Montréal, on my way to see Lana Del Rey. On the way to the venue, when uncertain as to which direction to go, my friend and I simply follow the growing trickle of flower-crowned girls in retro print pants and hairspray-heavy styles.

After walking up and down the line, looking for the floor ticket queue, we discover that the massive line we’ve been surveying this whole time is, in fact, the line for all sections. My friend is distressed at this, (“When I asked for tickets, I said front row,” he curses. I tell him row one is probably a designation for the floor in general. “I asked the bitch for front row, though,” he retorts, ever sassy) but the line is moving quickly, despite the heels and dresses that ought to render any swift motions impossible. It’s not just pretty young white girls in line, though — coming in at second are the visibly gay guys, followed by the minorities — boyfriends, parents, and the odd fan who eclipses these taxonomies. I’m beginning to lose count of flower crowns by the time we start getting close to the entrance. Ahead of us, two people slip between the metal fences set up to guide the ophic procession — I’m not sure if they’re joining friends, or just queue-skipping. My friend follows suit, catching me off guard — I’m worried about several thousand rabid fangirls lynching me, but after a second of hanging back, when the security at the door aren’t looking, I squeeze through, successfully cutting ahead of a hundred odd people. This is a rush of unadulterated adrenaline — I’d normally never do any such thing, but in light of how many random girls we interrogated about whether or not they had floor tickets, (so as to find the mythical floor queue) and did not have floor tickets, I don’t feel like the attendees with reserved seats will hate us too much for this social maladroit.

We’re given wristbands for the floor, and survey the burgeoning crowd already on the floor. (“I should have started cooking the stir-fry sooner,” my friend sighs when he sees how many people are already packed onto the floor.) It’s pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder, and unlike my last concert, (The Dillinger Escape Plan) it’s not terribly acceptable to shove your way to the front — especially when the people you’re shoving out of the way are girls, aged fourteen to twenty-something, a foot shorter than myself, about half my weight, and in utterly precarious footwear. (I hypothesize that this is one of the reasons no one said anything about our queue-jumping.) We shuffle as close as we can get, but there’s still fifteen, twenty feet between us and the barrier at the stage; my thumbs are hooked in my pockets, both guarding my valuables and preventing any accidental hand misplacements — ironically, this is my deepest fear at this point — being mistaken for a pig when really I’m just trying to defend the two square feet of ground I’m standing on from eleven dollar beer-swilling fans in flower crowns.

The opener is a long-haired tattooed guy (Dream Echo, he said his name was?) in some sort of pearlescent, deep, deep v-neck shirt with fringed arms, and he starts strumming on an acoustic guitar. Initially, I don’t mind him, as his guitar is emphatic and bright, but as I start to pay more attention, I realize he has all the lyrical prowess of my lovestruck grade six self. I hear adjacent spectators expressing similar sentiments as his set goes on, refusing to end soon enough for my and the audience’s taste. (A farewell turns into another song, amid great groaning.)

Omitting the great deal of standing and waiting, (and territorial plasticity and fracture) the venue quickly is enveloped in fans; the flower crowns are everywhere at this point, and turning around, I quickly feel a twinge of agoraphobia at just how packed the arena is. Excitement is at a breaking point, and when the lights finally die with the house music, my ears are summarily shredded by several thousand screaming ladies. The bass and kick drum ripple like a rhythmic earthquake, and the belle of the night appears, immaculate — the lady and the legend.

Starting out with Cola, Del Rey is distracted and talking to the monkey of a sound tech, who is apparently routing the drummer’s click track into her in-ear monitor, and has her vocals too low in both the house mix and her monitor. In spite of the cretin in control of the sound, she struggles on, the only signs of discontent appearing on her face, after the song and her customary thank yous to the audience for being here. Del Rey and the band proceed into Body Electric, and Blue Jeans; they then drop the new single, West Coast, to spine-tingling effect — the guitarist (whose identity I cannot discern via the allegedly omnipotent Google) is breathtakingly good at adding a (in this writer’s humble opinion) much needed element, without stealing the limelight. The unignorable crowd favourite, Born To Die, follows, the chorus of which is screamed by every fan with a working larynx. Carmen is followed by Young and Beautiful, but the transposition from the studio version to the live one is a bit clumsy, and I can’t seem to find the melody that’s usually quite familiar to me; I wonder if this is the sound guy again, or the live versus studio aspect. Without You is next, followed by Million Dollar Man, Summertime Sadness, Ride, Video Games, (the latter three riotous favourites) and then wrapping things up with National Anthem. At one point during the show, several thousand smartphone lights flicker in the audience like several thousand white fireflies tumbling around the air. At the end of the song, Lana is discernibly affected; she turns to look at the drummer, who shakes his head and throws him hands up in amazement and confusion. (“We’ve never seen anything so beautiful,” Lana says to the crowd, bashfully letting out a small laugh, and although I’m not sure if this is a platitude, the crowd loves it, and so do I.)

When the lights die, people cheer for an encore, but I know that’s not a la mode or the modus operandi of such a starlet as this. Leaving, I feel hypnotized; I am trying to discern whether or not Lana is an utter fabrication, or utterly real, or maybe a bit of both — but it doesn’t matter, because when you look and sing like an angel, only a fool would concern themselves with such a feeble thing as reality.

What Took Her Breath AwayPhoto Credit: Pascal X.