Live: Lana Del Rey in Phoenix

A full seven months after the release of her newest album, Lust for Life, Lana Del Rey is still packing arenas, including Phoenix’s Talking Stick Arena. Talking Stick has seen its share of pop princesses, but this time, it opened its doors for a queen.

Lana Del Rey seems to be a personification of America—when she began her career under the Lana name, songs like “Mermaid Motel” and “Queen of the Gas Station,” invoked images of the dust rising in ghost towns, and high-heeled gypsy women. When she moved on to the Born to Die age, the lyrics seemed to be pulled out of The Great Gatsby, and in this new era, she’s turned her attention to a happier era of herself. No longer idealizing the nostalgia of decades past, she looks to the future of America, using her powerful lyrics and distinctive vocals to empower her listeners to remain strong during times of uncertainty.

Thus, her concerts have a dynamic energy as she switches between haunting ballads about lost lovers and the alcohol that plagued her past, and songs of praise about American pride. The whole thing deifies her in the eyes of her fans: her supreme talent and extensive vision make her appear flawless, and her lyrics full of pain smoothed over with rosy poetry make her human.

With eight years of material to cover, Lana Del Rey had to pick and choose her content—it’s no surprise that many fans didn’t hear their favorite songs. While Grant focused on her newer material, it was well balanced, even including compilations to try to squeeze in more content.

Apart from the music, the show was simple to the eye yet complex in execution. The stage was transformed into an oasis, with rock sculptures, plentiful foliage, and lawn chairs. Behind the pop icon, giant screens depicted an array of visuals, from a beach scene, to clips from music videos, to live video shot from above when Lana and her backup dancers performed “Pretty When You Cry” while lying on the floor.

Obviously, her vocals were supreme. Her hauntingly gorgeous style is perfectly captured in her live performances and recorded material, producing a level of consistency many pop megastars lack. She frequently paused in the middle of songs to address the audience, giving the set intimacy. Of course, she hardly needed to be there—the crowd was more than happy to sing her set with her, and sometimes for her.

The Lust for Life cover is the first album that depicts Lana Del Rey smiling, and that happiness transferred to her live show. Her talent is untouched by this transformation, but her stage presence certainly is. No longer the cigarette-smoking, forlorn queen of dark pop, Lana is free to interact with her audience and bring a new life to her performance—A Lust for Life, that is.

-Kelly Fox