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Review: Lana Del Rey rocks slow and steady at Target Center

A closer look at Friday's show in Minneapolis – her L.A. to the Moon tour debut.

A cult figure with a pop-level following, Lana Del Rey has one of the most carefully groomed images in music. Despite that, the first date of her L.A. to the Moon arena tour eschewed any sense of mystery. Without a catwalk, costume changes, or even an encore break, she just let her evocative songs rule. While it might not signal her ascendance to a Super Bowl halftime show someday, the lack of pomp felt on-brand and, at times, intimate.

Related: Photos: Lana Del Rey shines at Target Center

Like a big club show, you mostly got an oft-smiling Lana – in a high-waisted white dress and a pair of high-heel boots – singing with her band. (Okay, okay, there were a couple of backup dancers too.) Her staging was pure Los Angeles, with boulder and palm decor, a couple of beach chairs on platforms, and a gold-plated grand piano to push it over the top. Projections of crashing waves, a fast-moving highway, and a sun-drenched swimming pool danced on the stage floor throughout the night.

Del Rey was true to her records, and found ways to turn naughty and morbid innuendos into infectious sing-alongs. For each lyrical picture of danger (typically viewed from a safe vantage point) she beckoned to the crowd to join her in song. The 9,000 or so fans – primarily young adult females all dressed up to go somewhere in particular – were overjoyed to comply loudly. This crowd felt especially primed. Though she hit the national consciousness in 2011 with Born to Die, incredibly this was Lana Del Rey’s first Minnesota performance ever.

The setlist traced the singer’s obsession with Hollywood glitz, counterculture art, and the torch song tradition running from Dusty Springfield up to Amy Winehouse. Her band nimbly scaled up for the fireworks of last year’s Lust for Life highlight “Love” and stripped back down for a guitar-only cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Graduate-era “Scarborough Fair.”

While she mostly dealt with the politics of relationships and fame, “When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing” was a brief venture into global discourse. As vintage footage of dropping bombs danced across the video screen, she altered the song's lyrics to mention fake news and sang, “Boys, don’t make too much noise on Twitter, cause it’s not funny." The audience ate it up.

Amid a night that was light on choreographed provocations – Del Rey's lyrics mostly handled that – she chose to lie down onstage for “Pretty When You Cry” with her dancers writhing next to her. Later, she breezily sat on a swing to belt out the “swinging in the backyard” passage from “Video Games.” Otherwise, she mostly slowly stalked the stage. Sometimes it felt like she was hiding behind her fake eyelashes, or letting the booming mix envelop her – especially on “Born to Die.” 

But extroverted gestures would always follow the introverted ones. After completing the whistling coda of “White Mustang,” she stepped down to the barricade and broke the fourth wall. In a moment that stopped the flow and created a new one, she hugged fans, took selfies, and (at least temporarily) cracked open her facade. For the night’s closer, “Off to the Races,” she returned to do it again.

Overall, the night felt less scripted than most arena shows. Del Rey’s banter with the crowd seemed off-the-cuff. “I’m so happy to see you guys,” she said early on. “Half of my best friends are from here.” She also mentioned that her brother lives in Minneapolis. More than anything else, she kept coming back to how happy she was to sing these songs along with an audience. It was an ultra-mutual feeling.

Setlist

13 Beaches
Pretty When You Cry
Cherry
Scarborough Fair (Simon & Garfunkel)
Born to Die
Blue Jeans
White Mustang
National Anthem
When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing
Music to Watch Boys To
Lust for Life
Medley: Change/Black Beauty/Young and Beautiful
Ride
Ultraviolence
Love
Video Games
Summertime Sadness
Serial Killer
Off to the Races

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