Artist and Professional Fangirl. Usually wearing pink, with sketchbook to hand, getting emotional over fan cultures.
Lana Del Ray takes her fans through a journey of her discography in a church-like experience at London’s Hyde Park
On Sunday 9th July 2023, London’s yearly pop up venue, BST Hyde Park, became the locally named Lanafest. Heart shaped sunglasses, cans of cherry coke and Americana idealism descended on the park’s lower corner in celebration of 2014 tumblr kids’ chosen mother, Lana Del Rey. For over a decade, her lyricism and artistic vision have impacted the lives of thousands of adoring and devoted fans – most of the people at this landmark sold-out UK show have been die hard fans since day one.
The all-day event comprised of three stages; with line ups from Lana’s friends and collaborators, mostly from her recent album ‘Did You Know There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard’. Instantly from these line up announcements, speculation set in amongst fans, wishing she would take the opportunity to stray from her current album tour setlist and play a beloved collaboration… Father John Misty? Please?
As the sunset loomed, the ever-angelic The Last Dinner Party closed out the Rainbow stage, bringing their ethereal catholicism to Hyde Park, lead singer Abigail clad in a white floaty dress with ribbons dancing in the wind; similar to many of the outfits from gig-goers, like a uniform for the school of Del Rey. Main support and Lana’s long time collaborator, Father John Misty, warmed the Great Oak stage, bestowing blessings in the form of melancholic love songs to the masses. His coolness exudes him, and you can hear it through his smooth-as-honey voice.
We stood on Hyde Park’s soon-to-be sacred ground, mentally preparing to see someone so influential in so many lives, gathered together in celebration. It’s as if the sky knew we were about to be in her presence, breaking into sunset at just the right time. Twenty minutes later than planned, but we would wait forever. “GOD BLESS YOU LONDON” is typed out onto the stage screens, and the church is in session. Opening the performance with a montage of video set to ‘Nature Boy’, from Baz Lurhmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge’, we knew we were in for a treat. Lana enters the stage to a rupture of screaming, cheering and applause, beginning her set with ‘A&W‘, surrounded by dancers. Her stage set has floaty curtains, candlesticks, grand pianos and entwined swing sets – it is as if she is inviting the crowd into her home and her world of grandeur. During the third song of the set, ‘Bartender’, Lana transforms her hair into the beehive style that is so iconic to her brand. Her vocals are impeccable, and it truly feels like a religious experience.
During new addition to the setlist, ‘Chemtrails over the Country Club’, Lana lets us in on a secret about her past relationship, which leaves us giggling with her. The acapella introduction to ‘The Grants’ solidifies her vocal ability, and the harmonies between Lana and her backing singers ring out, probably across the whole of London, giving us goosebumps. Classic songs for the fans in attendance such as ‘Cherry’ and ‘Pretty When You Cry’ have us screaming to each other, friends and strangers, creating immeasurable bonds through her music.
It wouldn’t be a Lana Del Rey show without the iconic ‘Ride’ monologue, where Lana and her dancers sit facing the stage screen to reflect. The accompanying video montage relives Lana’s career until this pivotal moment, flicking through her music videos from all the way back when she used to create under the name Lizzy Grant. Emotions were high amongst fans, but there was a higher sense of belonging in this moment shared together. After ‘Ride’ comes legendary songs ‘Born to Die’ and ‘Blue Jeans’, followed by ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ and a heartfelt rendition of ‘Arcadia’ that feels incredibly close and intimate in a crowd of thousands.
Cult classic and 2014 staple ‘Ultraviolence’ has us all crying our eyes out; just being in that moment feels so emotional that we are overcome with tears. Many of us heard the album in our teens, and are now twenty-somethings, it feels like a landmark in our lives to experience the song together. ‘White Mustang‘ is equally as beautiful, with her troupe of dancers parading around her whilst she sits amongst them, like a queen on a throne.
Slowing down the set, ‘Candy Necklace’ starts with Lana knelt atop the grand piano whilst she delivers some of her darkest and most vulnerable lyrics. She references getting cut off at this point in the set at Glastonbury this year, and introduces her band to us. We are nearing the end of the set, but there’s just enough time for ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ and ‘Summertime Sadness’. Lana’s voice is heavenly during album title track and penultimate song ‘Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Boulevard’. The show closes out with her first hit song ‘Video Games‘, but this feels different. We are singing to each other; us to Lana, and Lana to us.
The most impactful part in the set was when Lana took to the barrier to greet fans who have been waiting hours for this very show. She spends time talking to them, taking selfies and signing records. The interaction is followed by a camera so we can share in this moment via the screens. This act of fan service shows the consideration and care Lana has for her fans, not only to put on an amazing show, but to take the time to thank the front row for their love and gratitude.
Even if you’ve never listened to Lana Del Rey, or you don’t understand her cult-like appeal, her voice and her live show speaks a million times louder than even this review. The sense of community and belonging at her shows are like no other, and I highly suggest you see her when you can. God Bless Lana Del Rey.