Taylor Swift isn’t the only singer on her Eras tour right now.
Lana Del Rey, one of alternative music’s foremost artists since she burst onto the scene in 2011, is also traversing through her musical epochs on her current tour in support of her latest album, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd. While most artists focus on their latest release on tour, Del Rey sang only four songs from Ocean Blvd during her headlining set at the All Things Go music festival on Oct. 1. The rest of the setlist was devoted to deep cuts, fan favorites, and hits from her previous albums: her lush and dramatic major-label debut Born To Die (2012), its moody and atmospheric follow-up Ultraviolence (2014), the more upbeat Lust For Life (2017), the poetic, Album of the Year Grammy-nominated Norman Fucking Rockwell! (2019), and the stripped-back Chemtrails Over The Country Club and Blue Banisters (both 2021). Del Rey combined music and theatre, using set decoration and backup dancers to make her performances as visually appealing as they were sonically pleasing.
Del Rey opened her set with a medley of more recent offerings from Rockwell, Banisters, and Ocean Blvd. When she began the performance with Rockwell’s titular album opener, the entire crowd joined her in belting out its memorable opening lyric—“Goddamn, man-child”—and their enthusiasm never once wavered over the course of the one hour and thirteen minutes for which Del Rey performed. The roar of the crowd matched Del Rey’s vocal prowess on every song.
In another similarity to Swift’s Eras Tour, Del Rey had a grand array of choreography and interactive set designs for each song. While singing “Bartender,” she sat at a restaurant table decorated with a candle and two flower vases, emulating the song’s title. At center stage, her dancers played with candelabras and decorative orbs. The show ended with an elaborate performance of piano ballad “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it,” its final moments being Del Rey getting wrapped in a white sheet and dragged off the stage by men dressed as psych ward orderlies and a CIA agent.
For some hits, the design was kept to minimum, in turn focusing heavily on Del Rey’s vocal talent and aura. For “Video Games,” the spotlight was on her on a floral swing. To sing Ocean Blvd’s titular track, she and her three backup singers sat on chairs, keeping the audience’s focus on their beautifully powerful voices. Balancing theatrical productions with more stripped-back performances kept the audience entertained but not overwhelmed and symbolized what has made Del Rey’s artistry so renowned—her vivid, poetic lyrics, her oscillation between maximalist and minimalist production, and, of course, her beautiful voice, sometimes soft and gentle, but always powerful.
Del Rey had a surprise in store for the All Things Go crowd, perhaps as a reward for waiting over nine-and-a-half hours in 79 degree heat to see her set. A little over halfway through the show, Del Rey brought out none other than her frequent producer and collaborator Jack Antonoff (who played All Things Go last year as his solo pop-rock venture Bleachers) for performances of their collaborations “Margaret” (which features Bleachers) and “Venice Bitch.” Nearly every member of the audience realized that the man walking onstage with a guitar was Antonoff at the same moment and let out an ear-piercing shriek. The duo opted for calm, intimate renditions of the aforementioned songs, with Antonoff accompanying Del Rey on an acoustic guitar. Their performance of “Margaret” was extra-special for two reasons: not only was it the first time the song had been performed live, but actress Margaret Qualley, Antonoff’s wife for whom the song was written, was in attendance.
In his review of Swift’s Eras Tour shows at MetLife Stadium, Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield described the tour as “a journey through her past, starring all the different Taylors she’s ever been, which means all the Taylors that you’ve ever been.” The same can be said for Del Rey’s tour. Many of her fans first discovered her when they were in the throes of their Tumblr phase in the early-to-mid-2010s, reblogging her Americana-infused and often maudlin lyrics edited onto “aesthetic” backgrounds.
Photo Credit: Laura Harvey
I remember my first introduction to Del Rey’s music. When I was in sixth grade, I was flipping through radio stations while doing my homework one night when I stumbled across a station that was playing “Summertime Sadness.” The song blew my eleven-year-old mind—it was one of my first introductions to music that was neither Top 40 pop hits nor 70s/80s/90s classics my parents showed me. “Summertime Sadness” instantly became my favorite song, and I dove headfirst into the rest of her discography. And as her lyrics matured, her fans did too, resonating more with her ballads about family relationships and trying to find a place in this ever-changing world.
The beauty of retrospective shows like Swift’s and Del Rey’s is your reflection on the artist’s music, the role their work has played in your life, and all the memories you’ve made with them. Like Sheffield wrote in his review, the show is almost as much a celebration of your journey as it is the artist’s. For me, hearing “Born To Die” live was the culmination of thinking about its opening lyrics, “Feet don’t fail me now/take me to the finish line,” every finals week since sixth grade. I got choked up when Del Rey performed “Ride,” a song with which I’ve always felt a strong connection. “Arcadia” reminded me of listening to Banisters for the first time on its release day, which also happened to be the day of my Georgetown University Admission interview. “Eras” tours remind fans of the beauty of having an artist serve as the soundtrack to all the epochs of your life.
“We get to be dramatic because of you,” Del Rey said during her last thank-you to the crowd before the final song of the night. But because of her, we too have gotten to be dramatic, sad, reflective, happy, in love—everything.
Grace Copps is a sophomore in the College planning to study Government with minors in Journalism and Justice and Peace Studies. She is Co-Reviews Section Editor for The INDY.