Lana Del Rey is an “artistic kleptomaniac” in the very best way. She draws from the bards of the past like a delicious and life-sustaining elixir. The art of Lana Del Rey is a “pastiche patchwork quilt.” From Slyvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and beyond, the allusions peppered through her work like stars are both bold and powerful.
If we are to look at American celebrities and culture with a critical eye, look no further than the work and life of Lana Del Rey. Del Rey has curated a Postmodern iconography, conglomerating a variety of highbrow and lowbrow culture from the late 20th century. Her references visually and sonically to the poetic prophets of days gone by both preserves their legacy while at the same time leaving her stamp on history. I’ve seen a Lana Del Rey show before in my day, but nothing like the spectacular that took place last week on the Hollywood Bowl stage. The Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell Tour with “Friends + Family” exceeded all of my expectations.
Lana Del Rey took the stage in a long, flowing gown with puff sleeves and a Victorian bodice. Her look exuded a simple and classic elegance that has become signatory of LDR. A projection of a typewriter pumping out lyrics filled the stage as LDR sang the opening words to “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” the title track from the 2019 hit album, Norman Fucking Rockwell. She continued to perform a variety of songs from NFR as well as old hits like “Born to Die,” “Blue Jeans,” “Video Games” and “Ride” among others.
In between LDR classics, new and old, Del Rey brought incredible guests to the stage. First up, she brought out musicians, Zella Day and Weyes Blood, to all sing a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free.” I touched my cheek during the performance and noticed tears streaming down my face, that’s how beautiful it was. These incredible women were like forest nymphs, dangling their legs in a pool constructed on the Hollywood Bowl stage.
Later in the show, Del Rey brought to the mic John Lennon’s son, Son Ono Lennon, to sing their duet off of Lust for Life, “Tomorrow Never Came.” She also brought out Leonard Cohen’s son, Adam Cohen, to sing together “Chelsea Hotel #2” in a collaboration for the ages. Other guests included Chris Isaak performing “Wicked Game,” her producer, Jack Antanoff accompanying LDR on piano for “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have, but I have it,” and Jesse Rutherford from The Neighbourhood singing, “Daddy Issues.”
Del Rey concluded the night with “Venice Bitch” accompanied by a firework spectacular as the song drifted into the musical trip that is all nine minutes and thirty-seven seconds of synth and guitar wailing.
Del Rey’s performance at the Hollywood Bowl is a milestone in her career. With NFR, Del Rey has not only solidified her place as a pop star but as a cultural prophet with a profound mark to leave on our generation. Del Rey turns a magnifying glass on American culture, celebrity and gender roles. Her pouty-lipped, femme fatale with a coked-out sugar daddy aesthetic satirizes and critiques women’s roles in a heteronormative American culture. She’s not just a pop star; she has propelled herself into the bard realm alongside the artists she channels so much in her work.
Marina Pipher is a Los Angeles based filmmaker, musician and writer studying Film Production at The University of Southern California.