The iTunes Festival is set for an evening of mellow acoustic sounds as Lana Del Rey and Benjamin Francis Leftwich grace the Roundhouse stage.
First up was Benjamin Francis Leftwich, the acoustic songsmith quietened the Roundhouse upon entry as he picked his way through first single ‘Pictures’. Joined soon by his full band, he provided the audience with much more of his signature simplistic bliss. With a gorgeous voice and beautiful songs, he was the perfect warmup for Miss Del Rey.
Having flown back to London, in the midst of a European tour, just to make it to the iTunes fest, Leftwich definitely knows how important this gig is. This however, seemed to be something that Lana Del Rey was uninformed about.
The New York (and H&M) Adonis took to the stage in a casual off the shoulder sweatshirt with her brown Rapunzel locks draping down one side as she sang ‘Blue Jeans’. Not showing any signs of nerves she wafted across the stage belting out numbers from her hit debut album Born to Die. Despite all her previous reviews there were hardly any pitching problems, she seemed confident and at ease.
Accompanied only by a string quartet, acoustic guitar and grand piano, Lana treated the audience to unique renditions of her album hits. Without the drums, her songs felt unfamiliar, but were nonetheless mystifying with her reverb heavy vocals.
Her setlist comprised of nine songs, including new single ‘Body Electric’ where she portrays a self-made lineage to Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. Most of LDR’s songs are interspersed in sadness, none more so than ‘Born to Die’ which with the minimal backing felt like a beautiful eulogy. This was in drastic contrast to the more upbeat sounding (despite the name) ‘Summer Sadness’, mourning the end of a season is much easier to take in than death. Surprisingly her smashing debut ‘Video Games’ was slotted in sixth out of the nine songs, during which she traipsed down to the front row touching and holding fans, as she remarked “I needed to see my people”. Having jetted in from the States, she seemed quite at home in London and appreciative of the fact that UK fans have been loyal to her from the start.
It was after this however, that Lana started displaying her signature “diva-ish” side, turning to her piano player and speaking into the mic “I don’t feel like doing that one, just take it off the setlist” – not something an audience wants, or needs, to hear. She appeared to start negotiating the setlist with her pianist at frequent intervals in between ‘Radio’ and ‘Without You’, which generated much confusion amongst the audience, unsure about whether this was serious or playful coyness.
Introduced as ”the last song”, the guitarist sang “Money is anthem” signalling the start of the stunning track ‘National Anthem’. Images of President JFK and the American flag patriotically filled the backdrop, bringing a piece of American pastiche to London. The strings rolled, the piano followed, and Lana’s angelic vocals echoed through the Roundhouse.
Then just as the audience swooned, she left the stage. As the accompaniment died down, the cheers filled the room, this audience was expectant of more – who believes that ‘last song’ malarkey anyway! Whooping and whistling, the lights stayed down, everything pointed to the arrival of an encore, she still hadn’t sung ‘Carmen’ or her new single ‘Ride’ (for which the itunes festival would be a perfect place to debut) – surely this couldn’t be it? But then just as hopes were highest, the string section left the stage, the full lights and the familiar venue backing-track came back on, she wasn’t coming back. Members of the audience perplexingly checked their watches, only just gone 9.45pm, and in disbelief they disappointedly made their way to the exit.
Her set barely scraped 45mins, even Leftwich’s set felt more wholesome, yet no one could deny that she had the audience in the palm of her hands. Only LDR could leave her audience so satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time.