On Sept. 21, Lana Del Rey kicked off her “Norman F*cking Rockwell” tour at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Amphitheater in Wantagh, New York. Since this was her only east coast appearance on the entire tour and I’ve admired her work for years, I had to make this show.
As I watched the stage being set up, I noticed how the beach behind the stage made the experience feel natural and placid. It’s rare to experience a concert outside instead of being cooped up in a dome.
When the show started, Lana opened with a typewriter style letter to an unnamed man child and played the titular song “Norman F*cking Rockwell” off her newest album. As the song played, I could not help but laugh at the way the intro coincided with the song and how Del Rey’s singing was so relaxed. Del Rey then debuted “Bartender,” a somber yet sweet performance that had audience members in awe. For her next song, Del Rey decided to honor the late Leonard Cohen’s birthday by performing the hit song “Chelsea Hotel #2” with Leonard’s son, Adam Cohen. The tribute was a gracious reminder that Cohen’s music will always be remembered.
The next two songs caught me by surprise, as they were some of Lana’s most well-known songs. The first was “Born to Die,” off of her second studio album by the same name. Del Rey walked with her backup singers to a platform and transcended down the steps as if she was an angel coming to welcome us all to heaven. After that she performed “Blue Jeans,” and the crowd singing along only amplify Del Rey’s already harmonious vocals.
During the performances of “Cherry” and “White Mustang,” the stage was designed like a forest, with trees on both sides and a warm lighting scheme. For “Pretty When You Cry,” Del Rey actually laid on the floor with her back-up vocalists and sang like she was about to cry. To say that she is clever with her stage presence would be an understatement. The track Del Rey performed was not one song, but rather a melody of three songs: “Change,” “Black Beauty” and “Young and Beautiful,” the latter of which made my eyes water.
“Ride” was a nice throwback to Del Rey’s “Paradise” era. The performance carried a vibe similar to that which defined her in the early part of the decade, curious yet charming. Following “Ride” was “Tomorrow Never Came” in which Lana brought out Sean Lennon, son of Beatles’ legend John Lennon. The duet felt wholesome and seemed to brighten an already beaming crowd.
The next batch of songs were the best part of the entire show. Starting with “Video Games’” Del Rey got on a swing set and started going back and forth like it was a warm summer evening. There was just something magical about Del Rey seeming so care free while singing the song that earned her widespread attention. It almost seemed unreal.
“Mariners Apartment Complex,” was another gorgeous performance that helped solidify why Del Rey is so well respected and loved. Her emotions mixed with raw talent made it seem like Del Rey was by the campfire telling thousands of people a personal story. When “Summertime Sadness” came on, I felt weightless. It was almost as if Lana transported me to a carefree later summer party. The instrumentals may have changed from the original recording, but it still felt like authentic Lana Del Rey. Once the sadness of summertime was finished, Lana’s cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” was performed with precision and respect to the original band. The dream-like nature of the song put me in a place very few artists or works of art could, which was one of genuine happiness.
Towards the end of the show, Del Rey played “Off to the Races” which she normally ends most shows on. The energy of her performance was ecstatic and, along with the background visual of race horses, the song felt like it was alive and breathing. For her second-to-last song, Del Rey sang an old favorite, “Shades of Cool” which pleasantly surprised everyone in the audience. The song’s tone fit with the cool evening atmosphere of Long Island, and helped wind down a near two hour show.
To end the night, Lana presented the eager audience with “Venice B*tch,” an over nine minute experience that was trippy, hypnotic and sweet. During the song, Lana went to the front row and interacted with fans. At that moment, I knew that Lana Del Rey was bigger than music. She was a force that seemed to be in love with her fans without feeling overwhelmed or miserable. At no point during the concert did I feel that Lana was being inauthentic. She treated her audience like family and every song and story she told on stage seemed to come from a place of love.
As I was leaving the theater and heading towards the ocean of a parking lot, I was thinking of the songs Lana could have played during her set like “West Coast” or “High By The Beach,” but at the end of the day, I was grateful to witness a modern pop legend and for that I could not be more thankful.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @lanadelrey Instagram.
Ian Ward is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org