Lana Del Rey, Oliver Tank @ Palace Theatre, Melbourne (24/07/2012)

About six months ago, Lana Del Rey was one of the biggest names going around, with singles all over the radio and more hype than a playground on red cordial. It was back in those months the New York singer was supposed to pay us a visit, but the cynical among us might assume she was made a healthier offer to tour later on, as those shows were abruptly cancelled. So those looking forward to an intimate Toff performance could kiss that idea goodbye. The wait was over this week, though, with Splendour bringing Lana to town for two upsized and sold out Palace performances; Melbourne’s first taste for Miss Del Rey.

With an array of foliage covering the stage and surrounds, Sydney’s Oliver Tank kicked off proceedings amongst the greenery. Equipped with a guitar and an array of fidgety gizmos, tank had a difficult task gaining the attention from a rather distracted room before him. His music, whilst charming, did seem to fade into the background; a result of how subtle he was keeping things. Odd inclusions and semi-covers – everything from Manchester Orchestra’s I Can Feel A Hot One to Snoop Dogg’s Drop It Like It’s Hot – did turn heads here and there throughout the set, and added intrigue to Tank’s humble demeanour. Between his live guitar, drum machine and auto tune vocals, the man covered a lot of ground and mystical soundscapes, all adding up to an intriguing set, albeit one that was lost on the room.

As if it hadn’t taken long enough for Lana Del Rey to show her face to Melbourne fans already, the packed Palace was kept waiting for over an hour post Tank’s support slot. By the time the string quartet took their seats, the room was growing agitated, but with Lana herself appearing minutes later the frustration turned to elation, with screaming and what has to be a record for the number of cameras held up simultaneously at the venue.

Gracing the stage in a vintage red dress, Del Rey began with an obvious crowd pleaser in Blue Jeans; the songstress’ single gaining a great load of appreciation from those on the venue’s floor – even more so when she decided to pay the barrier an up close visit (a trick then repeated again and again). Her string quartet accompanied a piano and guitar combination positioned behind the plantations, and together the band certainly had their act together. There seemed to be components missing though (percussion for one), and by the time a few tracks had been played out the set had failed to really launch.

Born To Die isn’t exactly the most uplifting album by any means, but Del Rey seemed intent on soundtracking a funeral on the Palace stage. Smiles between songs aside, Lana performed like a true sorry soul, with eyes closed (check the gallery) and misery seeping. This worked in the favour of appropriately titled Summertime Sadness, creating a more genuinely glum feeling overall, but the singer came up short on her albums namesake; Born To Die losing a lot of its flavour in its stripped back version and Del Rey’s opening whispers proving cringe-worthy.

For the set’s majority, the crowd remained adequately engaged, a fact aided by the leading lady’s constant venturing down off stage to allow those in the front row some closer adoration. The cabaret styling of Million Dollar Man and the crowd’s voice on Video Games added highlights later in the set, whilst a toned down Radio was lost without its driving percussion (although made amusing by Del Rey’s decision to throw in some dance moves).

Disappointing to those who’d hung out for hours in anticipation, Del Rey was saying goodnight after only 50 minutes. This indeed felt like insult to injury after everyone was made to wait for longer than the set itself following support. As with many of the tracks before it, National Anthem finished the night off with more of Del Rey’s simplistic delivery, losing the momentum the track has in its recorded form. Clutching an American flag and letting everyone know she “loves them so much” in hyper-emotion; it was easy to cringe once again as Del Rey departed the stage.

To take the set at face value, away from the hype and expectations, the jazz inspired renditions and performance were worthwhile, Del Rey’s vocals were in fine form, and her band were of exceptional quality. Unfortunately though, when it comes to Lana Del Rey it was difficult to leave expectations at the door, and while on some counts she met them, on many – especially some of her biggest numbers – she disappointingly fell short of the mark.