Humming with excitement like a live wire, an army clad in wet and muddy Dr. Martens was huddled together at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. They had already withstood chilly temperatures and intermittent rain showers to see sets from indie darlings like Mitski and Lucy Dacus, and their anticipation reached a fever pitch as they awaited the arrival of the All Things Go music festival’s 2022 headliner: Lorde. The set began with a performance of “The Path,” the opening track to Solar Power, the artist’s 2021 indie-folk album. Screams from the crowd could be heard from the heavens as Lorde and her backup singers appeared, swaying along with the music while standing on the levels of a staircase propped up in center stage—the Lord(e) had arrived.
Lorde’s set mimicked Solar Power in its theme of sunny optimism for days ahead despite the confusion of the present moment. “The Path” epitomized this idea as Lorde sang of her hope that “the sun will show us the path.” These words surely rang true with an audience of mostly young adults, who have come of age in a turbulent international political landscape. Although the future may look bleak due to a seemingly never-ending pandemic and the concern of climate change, Lorde reminds her audience that all they need to do is look to the sun for hope and guidance. As the music of her first song died down, Lorde effortlessly transitioned into “Homemade Dynamite,” an uptempo pop offering from her masterpiece, 2017’s Album of the Year-nominated Melodrama.
After performances of the more understated tracks “Buzzcut Season” and “California” came the fan-favorite “Ribs,” a definite highlight of the show A song about the existential crises of growing up, “Ribs” is widely considered to be one of Lorde’s best songs due to its relatability and haunting indie-pop sound. The same longing that Lorde sings about poured out of the audience as they screamed lyrics like, “This dream isn’t feeling sweet / We’re reeling through the midnight streets / And I’ve never felt more alone / It feels so scary getting old.” The performance provided the audience with a bittersweet opportunity to revert back to their missed younger selves, dancing and singing like nobody was watching. After taking a moment to honor the bygone days of playdates and parties, it was time to pay homage to another crucial rite of passage of adolescence— heartbreak. “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” another example of pop perfection from Melodrama, tells the story of the disintegration and aftermath of a relationship. This performance was another catharsis for the crowd, inviting them to unleash their rage at an ex-lover with lyrics “I light all the candles / Cut flowers for all my rooms / I care for myself the way I used to care about you” and “It’s time to let go of this endless summer afternoon.” Still taking fans on an emotional rollercoaster ride through her catalog, Lorde followed with “Secrets From a Girl (Who’s Seen It All),” a retrospective track featuring sage words of wisdom for her 15-year-old self. For fans at the barricade, this was the highpoint of the show. During the song’s spoken word conclusion, Lorde came down from the stage to meet a few lucky audience members, one of whom gave her a bouquet of flowers. Although her vulnerable lyrics already make Lorde feel like a close friend to listeners, I imagine that the opportunity to personally connect with her face-to-face was a euphoric moment for these fans. For the fans watching from a distance, however, this moment was still meaningful. By carving out time in her set to meet with fans, Lorde showed the audience that she values them for listening to her stories as much as they appreciate her for creating music that reflects their thoughts.
Following the sunny, uplifting “Secrets from a Girl,” Lorde performed her most heartbreaking and vulnerable work. “Liability” is widely-admired for the way it encapsulates what it feels like to be “a little much for everyone.” Singing a song by one of your favorite artists that is a reflection of your deepest thoughts and feelings, along with thousands of other people who have felt the exact same way at some point in their lives, was a compelling reminder of the beauty of music. Why was everyone in the audience willing to withstand cold, rain, and mud to hear these songs performed live? Because music can articulate the deepest, ugliest, most hidden-away parts of the human experience, but also the allure of feeling emotions deeply. This idea perfectly sums up Lorde’s oeuvre —while there is plenty of darkness that comes with the tempestuous years of growing up, there is also opportunity for vulnerability and meaningful connection.
To clarify, the show was not entirely depressing. Lorde excelled at on-stage banter, addressing her infamous swim in the Potomac that she mentioned at her September D.C. show: “I feel like I’m a radioactive creature now,” she quipped. Before “Liability,” Lorde took a moment to offer words of encouragement to the audience. “I want you to remember that there’s a little patch of open space somewhere with your name on it,” she said, reassuring the audience to remain hopeful and optimistic about the future, even when it might look bleak. She finished off her set with a run of some of her most energetic, danceable songs, including her 2013 breakout hit “Royals,” “Supercut,” “Perfect Places,” “Green Light,” and “Solar Power.” After being informed that she had time for one more song, Lorde closed All Things Go 2022 with “Team,” a song from her 2013 debut album Pure Heroine. During this send-off, it started to drizzle, symbolizing the audience’s emotional release during Lorde’s performance. “And you know, we’re on each other’s team,” Lorde sang in the chorus of her All Things Go closer. That night, the audience truly was on each other’s team.
Grace is a freshman in the College studying Government.