An hour and a half before Lana Del Rey is scheduled to play, Easy Street Records is already filling up. The crowds are spilling out of the vinyl section into the CDs. As the minutes pass by, more and more people pack into the record store. Some try and push their way into jazz or used rock vinyl. Metal and clearance vinyl are already far past fire hazard status. Soul is starting to get cozy too. Twenty minutes before show time, the store is nearly full, and no one is just passing through. Some are die hard fans who can’t wait to meet their new idol, and others are prospective fans who have witnessed too much Internet indecision to make up their minds. Either way, everyone is talking about her.
Nothing new for Lana Del Rey, though. Her unorthodox rise to fame has made her one of the most polarizing figures in today’s music scene. But after a highly anticipated debut album release, Lana scaled things back a bit to get to know her fan base. She’s played a handful of record store shows in the past few months, and Saturday marked her Seattle debut. The event was brief and rushed. Lana had a set to play, a record store full of fans to meet and greet, and a flight to catch in the evening to play another gig the next day. But with the time she was given, Lana made her Seattle stop a treat for all those present.
As Lana comes on stage, fans all scream and cheer in unison. But Lana’s response is muted. She barely says a word to the crowd before breaking into her new album’s title track “Born To Die”. The crowd noise dies down as a quiet piano plays the song’s intro chord progression - they have to strain their ears to hear it. But as Lana starts the first verse, the room fills with sound. Her arrangements are sparse. She relies almost entirely on her own vocal chops - there isn’t anything to help cover up any fouled notes or shaky vocals. But then again, she doesn’t need it. “Born To Die” and crowd favorites “Blue Jeans” and “Video Games” are flawless, and her stripped down arrangements are quite poignant.
Off the album, Lana’s voice is oddly captivating. Her range bounces between contralto and high tenor with every other note. It’s an unorthodox approach, but it makes Lana’s performance memorable amongst a landscape of pop starts who merely replicate album cuts. After a while, the crowd stops trying to listen for what they are used to and begins to just enjoy hearing Lana play with and experiment with her songs. She finishes her set with “Without You”, and a rare performance of “Summertime Sadness”. With a smirk, she tells the crowd that she was only supposed to play four songs. She mouths “thanks” and then steps off the stage as the crowd erupts in applause.
Ten minutes or so later, Lana emerges for the signing. The line of fans is massive, and everyone is encouraged to take as little time as possible. Lana has a flight to catch, and it will be a small miracle if they can actually get through the whole line. But Lana totally ignores the call for brevity. Instead, she has a two to three minute conversation with every single person in the line.
Three hours later, the time has come for Lana to leave Seattle. As she departs, everyone seems satisfied with her visit. Whatever their opinions are of her and her music, the facts are undeniable: amidst all of the Internet’s buzz and naysaying, Lana showed up, performed well, and gave fans a splendid afternoon. Not a bad way to spend your Saturday.
Check out more of Suzi Pratt’s photos of Lana’s day at Easy Street below: