Charging In The Glow: A Cosmic Night With Lana Del Rey

by Brent Lambert @FEELguide

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If music makes the world go round, then for many of us Lana Del Rey often feels like the Sun around which our lives rotate. Her magnificent new album, Lust For Life, holds a galaxy’s worth of sonic treasures, and instantly became the summer soundtrack for millions when it was released on July 21. So it was perfectly fitting to see Lana perform Friday night under the moon and stars of the Santa Barbara Bowl.

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Kicking off the night was opening act Zella Day, a rising shooting star whom Lana had called a mere two days prior to see if she would be interested in opening for her. “Fuck yeah!” was Zella’s instant reply. All Lana asked her for was one small favor — if she could open with “Jameson”, her favorite song of Zella’s. Within seconds, Zella had us in the palm of her hands, and our collective jaws dropped from the combination of her rapturous voice and minimalist acoustic guitar. Watch out for this one, because she is a powerhouse.
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By the time Queen Lana hit the stage, my eardrums nearly ruptured with the 8,000-strong scream that rightfully filled the Bowl. It was our Sun, here to bless us with the gift of musical life, and not even wild horses could drag us away. “White Mustang” was when Lana began to really rev up the crowd, but it was “Music To Watch Boys To” that gave us our first case of goosebumps.
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Although most singers will give a big shout out to the city they’re playing at each night, Santa Barbara is truly a special place for Lana. As a birthday gift to herself last year, she says she came to the Bowl to see one of her heroes, Paul Simon, perform. Her birthday story reminded me of the timeless quality of her voice and her style, for her body of work has truly captured magic in a bottle. Much like the music of Paul Simon or Stevie Nicks, Lana’s songs are unique in the way they defy time and space. Within seconds of each song’s beginning, we are pulled into her orbit. It’s a phenomenon fueled by something much more powerful than nostalgia alone. Lana effortlessly straddles the past and the future of music, giving her fans the feeling of walking a bridge between two worlds. No other contemporary singer has achieved such a rare feat. After all, you cannot become the Queen by accident.
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Right after “Ultraviolet” Lana did something that I had never seen at a concert before. She spent a remarkable amount of time with many fans in the front row, doling out hugs, kisses, autographs, selfies, along with many more hugs, and many more kisses. From the big monitors it was clear as day how much those fans loved every second of being one-on-one with Goddess Del Rey. For the rest of their lives, those fans will now get to keep a piece of their Sun close to their hearts. But judging from Lana’s beaming smile the entire time she spent with them, I’m not sure who enjoyed it more — the fans or Lana herself.
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Upon returning to the stage, she tackled the heaviest moment of her set list. “Change”, also from her new album, was the most political point of the night. As she explained, the song was written during the tumultuous election of last year, and holds with it the clues of Lana’s own personal evolution of the past year, as well as her concern over the right-wing darkness that is sweeping America and the world. Buttressed by projections of hydrogen bomb explosions, she conveyed both a sense of dystopia and an underlying hope that as long as Lana rises each morning, the world will be OK.
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Her tire-swinging masterpiece, “Ride”, was one of my personal favorites of the night, and as per usual, had me dreaming of running off to live a dream life of prostitution and whiskey-fueled booze nights with a grey-haired biker gang in the desert.
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“Love” was a paired-down, singing-only dream. “Body Electric” gave us a desaturated dream state with slow motion video of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and calls for a personal cleansing with ‘Psalm 51’ showing up again and again. “Summertime Sadness” drenched us in summer haze, along with a reminder from the Queen at the song’s closing that “It’s always summer in California.” The hypnotic dream of “Video Games” reduced most of us to puddles, and before we knew it we were “Off To The Races”.
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A few weeks ago as I basked in the mysterious glow of the eclipse, I took the advice of a good friend and left my crystals outside to charge up in the rare energy of the cosmic event. Last night as I sat there soaking up every second of Queen Lana, I thought of myself in the same way as my eclipse-charging gems. It’s as if I left the Bowl a better person than when I arrived. And when it comes to Lana Del Rey, the same can be said for impact she’s having on the world itself.

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