Lana Del Rey delivers a breathless set at BST

One of modern music’s most unique and enigmatic performers returns with a career-defining show (without the power being pulled)

For those that witnessed the debacle of Lana’s much-talked about Glastonbury performance, it feels like there’s a lot resting on tonight’s sold-out show.

Whatever side of the fence you fall on, there was something undeniably uncomfortable about what happened at Worthy Farm. It left many baffled, especially when you consider that Lana Del Rey, despite having a slew of hit albums, hasn’t played on British soil in years. Why would she be so ungraciously treated, as a headliner who’s been lauded as one of the finest songwriters of our generation, and as a woman who may or may not have suffered a hair malfunction (many have raised the question: would a male artist have been as savagely cancelled in the same situation?). But here we are, it’s golden hour in London’s Hyde Park, the closing night of BST, and our self-styled ‘gangster Nancy Sinatra’ is (according to stage times) yet again, running a bit late.

However, noticeably, this crowd (unlike Twitter) is devoid of any vicious clamour. In fact, it’s apparent that this audience would wait all night on the edge of an impending apocalypse to see their girl take the stage. So when she does arrive, crowned in a glittering head band, hair done up ‘beauty queen style’ and accompanied by a sweeping orchestral backing track – ‘Nature Boy’, of course, the lyrics, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return”, echoes over the grounds like an eerie old-Hollywood wedding march – the audience go absolutely f*cking nuts. Instagram grinds to a halt. A girl midway back weeps uncontrollably while her friend captures every second of this grand entrance through a cracked phone screen. 

Lana Del Rey performs at BST Hyde Park on July 09, 2023 in London, England.
Photo credit: Matthew Baker/Getty

There are sequined backing dancers. Floral swings. A sheet suspended by a vintage gilt frame wafts dramatically in the evening breeze. It’s OTT. It’s all mildly ludicrous in a Vegas residency kind of way. But, she’s here, resplendent in florals and fluttered eyelashes. A gracious smile is met with another assault of enraptured screams. “Big crowd,” Lana smiles. More rapturous shrieks.

And so sets the scene for this round-about 90 minutes of pure uninterrupted Lana Del Rey – magnificent, charmingly flushed, and out to prove a point. ‘Young And Beautiful’ sounds every bit as haunting and fatalistic as it did a decade ago. The lingering “t-t-t-tender” of Norman Fucking Rockwell’s ‘Bartender’: simply exquisite. ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’ is barely heard over an audience who are consuming this set like Lana belongs to them and them alone – which, arguably, sadly, almost derails the magic of this performance. 

While times have inevitable changed, there isn’t one point during the show where a million smartphones aren’t being held aloft, a phenomenon made all the more irksome because Lana’s wonderful stage nuances (the astonishing, breathy key changes in banger ‘Born To Die’, the wry smile that opens up parts of ballad ‘Arcadia’) are completely lost, swallowed up by the fevered adoration of a crowd that want every last shred of her immortalised on their social feeds. But hey, this is the magic and mystery of Lana Del Rey, right? The opening monologue to ‘Ride’ – “Because I was born to be the other woman, who belonged to no one, who belonged to everyone” – sounds especially significant given that every merch stand in Hyde Park seems to have sold out of Lana apparel.

‘Ultraviolence’ is heavy and visceral. ‘Candy Necklace’ from new album Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd sees Lana draped across a gold piano like a forties lounge singer, the accompanying keys picking out the delicate command of her song-writing and elevating it to stadium-like cadence. This is all hers, everything she’s fought for and embraced while negotiating the rocky relationship with fame’s fickle limelight. Right now, Lana is in command.

“I think this is where I got cut off last time,” she quips, flipping a subtle bird at the Glasto gods before launching into the final part of her set which brings together Born To Die favourites ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ and ‘Summertime Sadness’ (undeniably one of the greatest pop songs ever written), together with a stirring performance of ‘Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd’. “I loved making this album,” she tells us. “It came straight from the heart.” 

It’s no surprise then that the last dance is saved for debut hit ‘Video Games.’ As the church bell intro clangs, Lana takes a big sigh before climbing into one of the floral swings and pushing off into space, her voice carried off on a breeze that meets the thousands of others far below her. Despite whatever labels she’s been given (by, let’s face it, keyboard warriors and the male race in general) Lana’s prowess as both an enigma and a brilliant songwriter transcends it all. It’s beautiful chaos, lit by pink neon and smelling of cherry cola. A true artist in every sense – divisive, maddening, mesmerising –  this performance will definitely go down in history as one of those rare ‘were you there’ moments. Let’s hope she doesn’t leave it too late next time…

Find tickets for gigs and tours here.

Photo credits: Matthew Baker / Getty