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Review: Lorde reigns over Fillmore fans

September 28, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 28--Oh, Lorde.

The heavily hyped vocalist, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O'Connor, definitely lived up to the buzz during her sold-out show Friday at the Fillmore.

She's just 16, yet her age is basically all she shares in common with most other teen stars. During her San Francisco gig, which just may well have been the season's toughest ticket, Lorde evoked memories of some of the greatest stars of the last 20 years -- including Bjork, Fiona Apple and Tori Amos.

The New Zealand native has a long way to go before she's ranked in the same league as those other women of song (especially Bjork), yet she's certainly off to a fantastic start.

No wonder that so many are treating Lorde's arrival on the scene with the same gusto once shown to Amy Winehouse and Adele. Unlike those earlier buzz-bin artists, however, Lorde isn't riding the retro-soul train, but rather updating '80s and '90s sounds in her likable brand of electro-pop.

She arrived at the Fillmore on the same day that the full-length studio debut "Pure Heroine" hit stores, although most of the fans in attendance already knew much of the set list from Lorde's previously released EP ("The Love Club"), singles and videos.

Lorde opened the show with "Bravado," appearing between a drummer and keyboardist on a dimly lit stage. At times, she was nothing more than a silhouette, inching through her atmospheric cuts with grace and style. The whole production was very Portishead in nature, and it only strengthened the aura of mystery that already engulfs her young career.

It was hard to get a good look at her onstage, but I was fortunate enough to get a close-up view as she walked through the Fillmore balcony before the start of the show. Her most striking feature is her hair -- which is an absolute mane of thick, curly locks. She actually quite resembles Princess Merida, the heroine in the 2012 Disney-Pixar animated film "Brave."

Some of her fan base will clearly get that comparison, while it might be lost on others. Lorde draws supporters from many age groups, ranging from young fans who might've watched "Brave" just last week to people who could be their parents. And they all sung along with glee to the music.

It's Lorde's ability to appeal to such a wide range of ages that really makes one think she could have a big impact in music. Plus, it's really easy to imagine her holding onto -- and expanding upon -- her initial fan base as she further matures as an artist.

The 1,100-strong audience showed the most love on this evening for the platinum-certified smash single "Royals," the song that really served as Lorde's introduction to the public. Yet, the fans seemed nearly as excited to hear "Biting Down," "Tennis Court," "400 Lux" and the other numbers that filled out the 12-song, approximately one-hour set. Plus, it was great to hear her croon through the Replacements' "Swingin' Party," a choice of cover material that further underscored her surprising maturity as an artist.

Lorde's relative lack of experience only really showed in two areas. The first was the sound mix, which was way too heavy on the bass -- and I was told that was Lorde's call, not the venue's. The second was her between-song banter, which, for the most part, was indiscernible mumbling.

Yet, those wrinkles will most likely get ironed out over time. And time, most definitely, is on her side.

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.

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(c)2013 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

Visit the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) at www.contracostatimes.com

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