Calculating and inscrutable, Lana Del Rey inspires fascination. For her concert under a full moon in Honolulu on Wednesday night, she was every bit the mysterious, stylized object of desire and confusion that she has set out to be.
Appearing at the Waikiki Shell for the last stop of her American tour, she played a long set without an opening act, running through a list of shimmering, fatalistic hits, including “Lust For Life,” her new collaboration with The Weeknd.
She appeared in a 1940s-ish, low-cut, flowered dress with a bi-level skirt, adding a flash of the entertainment industry’s depiction of Hawaii to her retro-Hollywood look. Member of her band were clad in aloha shirts; her backup singers, moving sinuously, wore shiny silver mini-dresses.
The stage was tropically colored and highly art-directed, filled out with palm trees and two upholstered lounge chairs — one on each side of the stage, so that she could sit or recline in either location. A large screen flashed behind her, projecting her videos and other synchronized imagery. Two screens flanked the stage, projecting the show to a sold-out crowd that stretched to the back of the lawn.
The music was workmanlike, also synchronized; relying on moody, minor-key swashes of melody to emphasize Del Rey’s fated tableaux.
Those tableaux, though! They’re captivating, cinematic — most often portraying a character who is beautiful and doomed.
Del Rey and her lyrical lovers largely populate a melancholy world, of “Summertime Sadness” (her first song).
“Love is mean, and love hurts,” she sang on “Blue Jeans,” from her 2012 album “Lust For Life. “
On stage, she moved very little, as if immobilized by anti-depressants, but her voice communicated deep levels of dark emotion — longing, sorrow, obsession.
Ultimately, too, her songs also inspire a kind of cynical energy. Her characters do have desires, after all. They are young, or rebellious — lovers (“Young and Beautiful”), skaters (“Video Game”), bikers (“Ride”), gangsters (“Blue Jeans”).
While Del Rey’s persona might be noirish, the flash in her eyes and her impeccably planned presentation signal that what she says is not exactly what she means.
Del Rey has described herself as a “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra.” That’s a nice encapsulation of her calculated persona: sexy, in control, and not averse to using stereotypes and stock stories to her own advantage.
Sinatra used her go-go boots for walking; Del Rey uses the image of the damaged, needy female accessory to cause unease, slip from the grasp of easy caricature, and also rake in the dough. That is pretty gangsta.
As she sings in that new single, “Lust For Life”: “We’re the masters of our own fate/ We’re the captains of our own souls/ So there’s no need for us to hesitate/ We’re all alone, let’s take control.”