BEIRUT

Culture

Lana Del Rey, ‘young and beautiful’

JBEIL: The Byblos International Festival continued its festivities Wednesday evening with U.S singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, who performed hits from her album “Born to Die” – the record that propelled her to international success – and from her more-recent EP “Paradise.”

Born Elizabeth Grant, she chose this stage name to combine actress Lana Turner and the Ford Del Rey automobile. Actually, the vocalist released two rather less successful albums as “Lizzy Grant” – the “Kill Kill” EP (2008) and “Lana Del Ray aka Lizzy Grant” (2010).

Opening Wednesday evening’s show was the Lebanese delta blues band The Wanton Bishops.

This duo, comprised of Eddy Ghosein and Nader Mansour, has been gaining some notoriety recently, having opened for the Guns N’ Roses’ Beirut show before moving on to play dates in Paris, Turkey, Sweden and Denmark.

The Bishops returned to sweet ol’ Beirut with their outstanding compositions to get the Byblos audience revved up for what was to come. They succeeded in this, playing the crowd into a state of Dixieland ecstasy. With nothing but guitars, drums, vocals and a harmonica, TWB presented their art at its best.

After having got warmed up, the Byblos audience had a chance to cool off for a spell, as it took the headliner about an hour to finally appear on stage. At certain points in the proceedings, the impatience was palpable in the air. Then, eventually, along came Lana, resplendent in a white dress, tiara and necklace, looking every inch the prom queen.

For those fans who recognize the vocalist as a fashion icon and femme fatale, she did not disappoint.

Del Rey explained to her audience that she didn’t know what to expect from Lebanon, but was gracious in her response to the warm welcome and expressed hopes she’d be back in Lebanon sooner rather than later.

The American idol performed for an entire hour, singing some of her greatest hits, including “Blues Jeans,” “Ride,” “Summertime Sadness,” “National Anthem,” “Blue Velvet” and “Young and Beautiful” – her contribution to the soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann’s Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle “The Great Gatsby.”

During her 60 minutes on stage, Lana Del Rey even found time to leave the stage in order to sign some autographs for those lucky folks in the front rows. At one point, she also found herself among the ranks of so many international performers who come to Lebanon, clutching a Lebanese flag and waving it about for a few seconds.

The evening’s stage design was nicely arranged. A video stream – a pastiche of some of Del Rey’s music videos with other images, including scenes of crows flying and desert landscapes of the sort found in the spaghetti Westerns – was projected in the background.

Del Rey promised to bring a slice of her to Byblos, a world in which film noir somehow mingles with charm and imposing stage presence.

She is a talented, beautiful and stylish lady. Yet she seemed a bit off-tune, even off-beat, at certain points in the concert. This may have reflected her willingness to improvise some new vocal arrangements, or perhaps her giddy excitement at performing in Byblos. In cay case, the performance was far from perfect.

Naturally the audience was able to sing every syllable of every Del Rey song. It was clear the vocalist was delighted the spectators were so loyal – given that she’d never performed in the region before.

During her brief turn on the stage, she seemed to be having as much fun as the audience.

Lana Del Rey’s audience did not seem particularly euphoric as they filed out of the venue. It was as though they were “going to school,” as one man put it.

The singer is “elegant, although you feel it is a character she is playing,” another nearby audience member remarked.

Many commented on how beautiful Del Rey looked, and what a great voice she had.

Others could be heard to say, “good voice. Bad performance.”

It was a good show. Yet some seemed disappointed, having expected a bit more from Lana Del Rey.

The Byblos International Festival continues Friday with English electropop duo Pet Shop Boys. For ticketing, please call 01-999-666.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 12, 2013, on page 16.

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