Why wasn’t Lorde a headliner?
As soon as the opening note to “Glory and Gore” sounded Sunday, arms holding smartphones shot up en masse. Lorde, already iconic, emerged in an all-black ensemble — crop top, harem pants and a diaphanous sleeveless kimono. She jerked her limbs without inhibition, with every industrial beat and droning synth blast. She thrashed her body up and down, using her wavy, brown plumage to maximum effect. She looked like a goth comet.
And that’s exactly what half the festival was there to see.
Not booked for weekend one, the “Royals” singer was the crown jewel of a been-there-done-that second weekend. Many who came to Zilker Park on Sunday came for one act and one act only, as evidenced by the ocean of heads that seemed to have no end. The New Zealand superstar on the smallish RetailMeNot stage but brostep has-been Skrillex showcased on the Honda stage? Worth all the side-eye in the world.
An hour before showtime, as Chromeo wrapped up last song “Needy Girl,” the rush began. Beelines to get closer to the RetailMeNot stage, even if just an inch, advanced over massive piles of accumulated mud. Those not creeping up had already been camped out all day. The handful of Chromeo fans trying to squeeze out found an impenetrable, sweaty wall of sorry’s and excuse me’s. Stomachs met backs.
No one got in, few could get out. All’s fair in Lorde and war.
As soon as that famous mane made itself known, the mood shifted in an instant from tense endurance to euphoria. Lorde explained to the audience that she started her U.S. tour at Austin Music Hall in March, and that this ACL Fest weekend two set would bring it to a close.
“I actually had my first barbecue here,” she said. “So there’s that. It’s a sick addiction. This is what you’ve done to me.”
The ante sufficiently upped, Lorde later emotionally explained to the audience that when she played that first date in Austin, she had many reservations about growing up. The intensity of those teenage feelings is reflected in her songs, she said.
That introspection radiated from a cascading “Ribs,” where innocent lyrics sat in sharp relief from Lorde’s wise-beyond-her-years confidence. Midway through the set, the stage went dark. Once the hot white lights flashed back on, a familiar tune started playing: Kanye West’s 2007 song “Flashing Lights.” Lorde emerged from backstage in a white version of her earlier outfit, replacing the black kimono for a flowing, quilted white wizard’s robe. She rapped a couple verses of the song, and if you were a teenage girl, you would have wanted to be her, too.
An easy, friendly give and take between idol and idolaters reigned. After playing “Biting Down,” Lorde announced to the crowd, “I’m going to fix my shoe real quick. It will only take a second.” A male voice in the crowd screamed, “You do you, girl!”
Lorde closed out the set with a knockout barrage of breakout smash “Royals,” recently released “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” track “Yellow Flicker Beat” (which she called a special treat for Austin) and closer “Team.” On the last song, the music, purple lights and strobes all swelled in tandem to an epic fever pitch, magnified by the sound of an entire field of people stretching as far as the eye could see singing every word in unison.
As the song came to a triumphant close, Lorde implored the audience to give her crew the biggest cheer of their lives, waved goodbye, and patted her bandmates on the back as she strutted off.
Pearl Jam and Calvin Harris were already playing as the audience filed out. No one must have told them the show was already over.