A short Brazilian man was browsing through the “country rockabilly” section of Amoeba Records on Haight Street in San Francisco, within minutes he found himself engulfed in a sea of hundreds of people. Lana Del Rey was in the building.
On Thursday, over 1,500 fans showed up at the record store in hopes of watching singer Del Rey, whose debut album “Born to Die” is No. 1 in seven countries, perform an intimate five-song set on the tiny stage. Hundreds were left outside in a line that wrapped around the block when Amoeba reached capacity at 5:30 p.m.
On Jan. 14, the downfall of Del Rey’s adolescent career unfolded in just under four minutes, when she walked on stage in a glamorous long, white-lace dress to perform an awkward, off-pitch rendition of her hit single “Video Games” on Saturday Night Live.
The show at Amoeba, though, proved she has the potential, and certainly a following, for a successful live show and career.
“She’s had a great reaction from the majority of her appearances worldwide, most recently the David Letterman Show,” said Del Rey’s U.S. publicist Marilyn Laverty.
Del Rey arrived at 2:30 p.m. and emerged from the graffiti painted alley adjacent to Amoeba to greet a gathering of about 40 fans with a smile, signing posters and album covers and taking pictures with them before she headed inside for a sound check.
Although there was a sign in front of Amoeba asking people to not form a line or enter the store before 4 p.m., two hours before the show was scheduled to begin, fans wandered the aisles, peeking over stacks of albums to catch a glimpse of her pacing up and down the stage, repeating song phrases in ascending octaves during a 15-minute warm-up.
Starting Jan. 31, the first 300 people who bought Del Rey’s album received wrist bands, granting them an exclusive opportunity to form a line after the set at Amoeba and briefly meet the singer as she signed each album. There was also a section reserved for the group directly in front of the stage.
“This is the first time we’ve ever blocked off a section for people who bought the album in advance,” said Amoeba employee Scott Walker, who runs the information booth and works in the jazz section of the store.
Tonight, Del Rey was far less nervous than that night on SNL, yet her vocal delivery was equally shaky, the tone of her voice fluctuating at a rapid, unbalanced pace, especially during the first two songs “Born to Die” and “Blue Jeans.”
The graceful movement of her hands, swooping her long brown hair behind her shoulders and back to the front again one too many times, along with her tendency to speak lyrics like “I love you honey” instead of sing them added a theatrical element to each song, which in essence represents her captivating charm.
Between songs, audience members blurted out comments like “We love you” and “Please marry me,” which caused Del Rey to shed tears as she blew kisses into the crowd.
“I was already a fan of Lana Del Rey before I saw her on SNL,” said performance attendee Crystal Herrera. “I think that was just a fluke because her performance tonight was flawless.”
Music critics all across the board labeled her album anything but flawless, referring to Del Rey as a talentless artist singing songs with irrelevant lyrical content, focusing on her appearance as the driving force behind her success.
This week, media backlash resulted in rumors that Del Rey’s management team had canceled her upcoming tour so that she could improve her live performance, while putting the SNL fiasco behind her and re-gaining credibility.
“We have been trying to establish when she might have time this year for a U.S. tour, but no tour was ever confirmed,” said Del Rey’s manager Ben Mawson.
After Del Rey performed the fifth and final song “Without You,” the audience chanted “one more song” in unison, but to no avail. After Del Rey and her piano player whispered back and forth for a few seconds, she turned to face the crowd, said, “I am obsessed with you,” and walked off stage.