Lana Del Rey mesmerises Brixton with a rare performance (Review)

Lana Del Rey

Brixton Academy



Lana Del Rey played a very rare one-off show to lucky fans at London’s Brixton Academy last night, Philip reports on a bittersweet and mesmerising evening.

I’ve been waiting almost five years to see Lana Del Rey make her majestic return to London, so as you can imagine I was overjoyed last week when I managed to grab an elusive ticket (they sold out in a staggering 12 seconds), it’s a very rare show in a an intimate venue for a singer who can now be considered a superstar, however Lana acts the polar opposite, she spends portions of the set down in the front barriers, hugging and signing cd’s from fans, her appearance is also the most everyday style I’ve seen from a performer, in a black top and jeans, she remains glamorous yet seems almost relatable, nothing like the Hollywood style she tries to emit.

Lana appears to mass hysteria on the Brixton stage which has been transformed into what can only be described as an traditional styled cinema, with fake curtains surrounding a massive screen which is placed behind her for the duration of her set playing a mix of music videos and home movie clips, it adds to the cinematic feel of the night. Lana isn’t solo however, she’s pulled out all the stops with a full band and even two backing dancers, it feels as if you’ve been transported back into 1950’s LA to one of those iconic club nights.

Originally billed as a show to celebrate her recently released new album ‘Lust For Life’ it had a lot of fans wondering what they were in store for with many anticipating a new material heavy set, what they received was something quite different. The show opens with an epic rendition of ‘Cruel World’ from her second album before going into our first new track from the night ‘Cherry’ and from the screams across the theatre it’s easy to tell it’s one of the fans favourites already, it’s not hard to see why, it has a unique rhythm to it, a hypnotic song with a drum beat that you find yourself bopping along to. 

Lana gets to show off her vocals and tremendous ability to hit the highest of notes with ‘Shades Of Cool’ the stellar track from second album ‘Ultraviolence’ would easily fit as the theme of any James Bond film, after hearing it on record I couldn’t get my mind round how it could be translated to a live performance, Lana proved me wrong as she hit each of the high peaks during the chorus, a magical moment early on for sure.

What follows took the majority of the crowd by surprise, Lana hit us with four full songs from her debut album all in a row, all certified hits and I don’t think I heard the crowd stop singing along throughout the segment, First up was ‘Blue Jeans’ like the majority of her first album it’s full of large, grand sweeping moments, you were almost deafened as the song hit it’s crescendo with the audience echoing back the epic chorus “I will love you to the end of timeeeee”. the entire academy was lit up by spotlights as ‘Born To Die’ began, you could see Lana’s silhouette hauntingly singing the opening lines, encapturing the audience.

The highlight had to be ‘Summertime Sadness’ however, the atmosphere was anything but glum with Lana hardly even having to sing a word, the crowd carried her through with pure joy, when she did utter a note however she didn’t falter, her voice remained stable and angelic throughout the entire evening, it shows how much this sort of intimate venue allows her to shine and stand out compared to being lost up on large festival stages or arenas. Lana then did a brief shout out to London where she wrote next song ‘Video Games’, the iconic single that launched her to stardom and it’s still as momentous now as it was all those years ago.

The next segment varies from fan favourites and rarities to new songs, unreleased ‘Serial Killer’ is brilliant live and teases all the fans waiting for an official release (it’s been around since the Paradise days), ‘White Mustang’ has quickly become a Lust For Life favourite and is lapped up by the audience who then shout to Lana to play new track ‘In My Feelings’, not wanting to disappoint she tells everyone it’s unrehearsed but still treats us to a 30 second acapella snippet 

The next two tracks take everyone by surprise, in recent interviews Lana has made it clear her dislike for title track ‘Ultraviolence’ but it gets a rare play out tonight, it’s a beautiful track despite the controversial lyrics. “We hardly play this one anymore, but tonight here’s Ride” Lana declares and then the crowd are treated to a rarity of epic proportions, the fan favourite ‘Ride’ has been missing since the early days, it feels suitably grand especially with the fantastic music video as the back drop.

A technical difficulty prevents ‘Love’ from being the swooping cinematic ballad it comes across on record, instead a resilient Lana decides to do it acapella, this sees the whole crowd sing along with her to her command, unfortunately it also means we are only treated to 2 verses. it’s only been about 55 minutes then Lana declares “This is my last song, hopefully it won’t be so many years before I return” the crowd obviously believing an encore is incoming, bop along to old album track ‘Off To The Races’ with it’s feverish beats more akin to a rave, it feels very out of place even more so when the crowd realise she was serious and disappears off stage with various gifts and flowers from her adoring fans.

And this is one of the few reasons where the show missteps on the evening, you may have noticed that my review is full of praise for the show and Lana’s performance, so why not a 10?, a few glaring artistic decisions really leave the crowd and myself with a bitter taste in their mouthes, firstly, the crowd have paid at least £50 to see Lana this evening, it’s disappointing she only performs for an hour especially when she had a whole extra hour left of curfew before needing to leave the stage.

This brings me to my second point, that extra hour could have been filled with so many glaring spots in the setlist, for example she hasn’t toured the U.K. since 2013, meaning her third album ‘Honeymoon’ is yet to be played live on these shores with not a single song making the cut (‘High By The Beach’, ‘Freak’, ‘Salvatore’ etc. all could have easily been placed in), even more recent hits such as title track ‘Lust For Life’ and Great Gatsby’s ‘Young and Beautiful’ miss out.

And finally for a female superstar that thrives off her image it came as a stark contrast to see her performing in high street jeans and a normal black top, It may have added to the stripped back feel but it came across as more half arsed than stylish. I will illiterate however, it was a fantastic hour, full of some of her biggest hits and some beautiful singing, no other woman can produce like Lana but when an adoring crowd have forked out massive prices, you need to put on a massive show which Lana just couldn’t manage to do. 



Cruel World
Shades of Cool
Blue Jeans
Born to Die
Summertime Sadness
Video Games
Serial Killer
White Mustang
In My Feelings (brief snippet)
Off to the Races