Lana Del Rey violated one of the golden rules of concert headlining at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday: Never allow yourself to be upstaged by an opening act.
But what are you supposed to do when your opening act is a football team?
The Los Angeles pop chanteuse’s “L.A. to the Moon” Wells Fargo date — in support of her fifth album, Lust for Life — was announced in September, so it was an unforeseen circumstance that the show would take place simultaneously with what turned out to be the Philadelphia Eagles’ walloping of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game at Lincoln Financial Field across the parking lot.
Which meant Del Ray fans making their way to the show across a beer-bottle strewn lot were serenaded by 69,000-plus chanting “E-A-G-L-E-S!” as fireworks exploded overhead. Wisely, the 32-year-old singer waited until the 38-7 score was final before taking the stage.
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That gave the crowd time to leave behind the TVs in the bar areas off the concourse — where the winning fashion combo among Del Rey’s young largely female fan base was a halo of daisies coupled with an Eagles jersey. Settling in to their seats, they filled the lower bowl of the arena; the upper levels remained empty and unsold.
No one sat for long, however. Del Rey makes melancholy music that evokes sun-kissed sorrow and beautiful loser tragedy — her most emblematic album title is 2012’s Born to Die — and her moody tunes rarely move forward at anything quicker than a glacial pace. But since emerging with the smash “Video Games” in 2011 and being lambasted for a legendarily wooden Saturday Night Live performance the following year, the singer who had previously attempted to break into the business using her given name, Lizzy Grant, has shown herself to have impressive staying power, scoring one evocative, coolly crafted L.A. noir hit after another.
On Sunday, Del Ray took to a stage landscaped with rock formations and foliage to appear like a desert oasis. Wearing stiletto knee-high boots, she greeted her people by acknowledging the celebrations already overtaking the city: “I heard your team won tonight.”
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Then she got down to the business of exploring her world-weary catalog in an efficient, just-short-of-an-hour-and-a-half set in which she was backed by a four-piece band, plus two singer-dancers whose slow, studied movements were in keeping with the singer’s anything-but-hurried, refreshingly non-aerobic stage presence.
The trio of vocalists set the tone for the languorous vibe during the second song, “Pretty When You Cry,” which they performed lying on their backs on stage, directing their gazes toward overhead cameras. Later, Del Rey sang while relaxing on a tree swing suspended from the rafters, and eased herself onto a pair of swimming pool chaise longues perched on either side of the stage.
The crowd, however, stood throughout the performance, bewitched by mood pieces like “Yayo,” which Del Rey performed solo, accompanying herself on a Flying V guitar, and the more bombastic “National Anthem,” which followed a videotaped clip of Del Rey paying homage to a glamour queen of yore with “Happy Birthday Mr. President,” sung in the style of Marilyn Monroe’s version for John F. Kennedy.
The Wells Fargo may have been far too big for Del Rey to fill, but she did succeed in forging an intimate connection with her fans. By arena show standards, the music-first performance was winningly human. Del Rey is not a dynamic singer, but she sang in a strong midrange voice to dissuade doubters that she might be only a studio creation.
Del Rey did not perform “Get Free,” the Lust for Life album cut that is the center of a copyright controversy due to its alleged resemblance to Radiohead’s 1993 hit “Creep.” (Del Rey has said the British band is suing her; Radiohead reps say no formal suit has been filed.) But she did do such Lust gems as the title cut, which nods to Iggy Pop, and the lush romance “Love,” which quotes the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby.”
She also scored points for the show’s off-the-cuff moments. She did “Old Money,” from 2014’s Ultraviolence, as a piano ballad by request. And she offered a glimpse of the newly woke Del Rey by prefacing “Change” with a story about musing on the heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea after attending last year’s Coachella festival in the California desert.
And she talked about how Saturday’s women’s marches around the country and the world “reminded me how much my own direction has changed,” before doing an unplanned, stripped-down version of Lust’s mouthful of a title “God Bless America — and All the Beautiful Women in It.” In that song, like most Del Rey did on Sunday, every word was sung along by a devoted fan base, albeit one not so loud or as fervid as the one shouting out the Eagles fight song across the street.