Lana Del Rey live at Coachella 2024: distinctive star stays true to herself

Lana Del Rey performs at BST Hyde Park on July 09, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Baker/Getty Images for ABA)

Before Coachella 2024 kicked off, Lana Del Rey appeared to hint that her headline moment was the crux of a narrative arc of redemption. On the side of the highway leading to the desert festival, she posted a billboard nodding to the 2012 SNL performance she was mercilessly crucified for. “Has anyone else died for you?” it pointedly asked, designed in a way that sent up the advertising hoardings that populate America’s Bible Belt.

  • READ MORE: Coachella 2024 liveblog day one: Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish, and all the action from Friday

When she arrives on stage tonight (April 12) – making her grand entrance via a motorcade of motorbikes, riding through the crowd – it doesn’t feel like redemption. Del Rey has long proven what she’s really capable of, both on record and in her live performances that have seen her become a festival headliner around the world. Instead, her first time atop the Coachella bill feels reflective; a survey of all she’s done and created over the last 12 years.

It begins by dialling things all the way back to 2012 and her debut album, ‘Born To Die’ – or, more specifically, one of its bonus tracks, ‘Without You’. It’s a surprising but beautiful opening, even if its “Hello hello, can, can you hear me?” line takes on a prophetic slant later in the set. There are songs dug out from Del Rey’s cupboard that haven’t been played in years – the hazy ‘West Coast’, and her take on Sublime’s ‘Doin’ Time’ among them – and, even when she’s playing some of her biggest hits, there’s a feeling that you’re watching a setlist of lowkey gems. The stuttering ‘Bartender’ melds smoothly with the dreaminess of ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’, ‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’’s yearning shifts quickly into the more gently acerbic ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’.

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As that ‘Without You’ lyric predicts, though, Del Rey’s set – like much of day one across the festival – is mired by sound issues. At several points, she stops singing to check on technical issues and, after the gorgeous ‘…Ocean Blvd’, sings: “As quiet as I am, how are you doing?” That seems to be both a reference to the sound and her not spending much time interacting with the audience – immediately after, she continues her melodic inquiry: “As little as I have to say, can you hear me well?

Some festival-goers and critics have pointed to Del Rey as an “odd” choice of headliner – someone not exactly known for putting in energetic, flashy performances. Tonight, unswayed by those opinions, she sticks to what is true to her and instead focuses on something artful rather than gimmicky. After arriving on her motorcade, she enters a stage built to look like a palatial old mansion, where she’s joined by dancers moving down the grand staircases and, later, guests who stop by to stay for a moment. The beauty in the performances comes in the small details – the star lying back on her dancers for ‘Pretty When You Cry’, all of them dressed in blue like a pool of sparkling tears, or her leaning into the narrative of ‘Bartender’, briefly, coolly, checking her appearance in a mirror while the performers around her venture into choreography that feels almost occultist.

There is a subtle flash, though. When Jack Antonoff takes a seat behind the piano for ‘Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – But I Have It’, he’s not joining flesh-and-blood Lana on stage, but a hologram version of her that spins slowly, gracefully in one spot. When the song arrives at the “Hello, it’s the most famous woman you know on the iPad” lyric, it feels like the stage has become our screen, Del Rey’s virtual image beaming through from somewhere else.

As rumoured, a handful of guests make an appearance, too, including Antonoff. First, Jon Batiste joins her for a sublime ‘Candy Necklace’ that closes with the pair ad-libbing together in harmony. After, Billie Eilish sits next to Del Rey on her balcony, duetting versions of their respective breakthrough songs, ‘Ocean Eyes’ and ‘Video Games’. It’s a stunning coming together of two of music’s most distinctive voices.

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As well as an impressive catalogue, what Del Rey has also created over the last 12 years is impact – something that’s evident across Coachella this year. Earlier in the day, Chappell Roan projects her image onto the screen behind her as she performs, while throughout the bill, you can spot more artists who’ve been inspired by the headliner, like Suki Waterhouse and The Last Dinner Party. After ‘Video Games’ ends, Del Rey turns to the crowd to remind them Eilish is “the voice of our generation”, but her guest has her own truth to share: “This is the reason for half of you bitches’ existence,” Eilish bluntly declares. A short while later, Del Rey returns backstage on her motorcade. As she waves to the crowd like a 1920s beauty queen on an elegant victory lap, it’s clear redemption is not the theme of the night but a celebration of a star who always stays true to herself.

Lana Del Rey played:

‘Without You’
‘West Coast’
‘Doin’ Time’
‘Summertime Sadness’
‘Cherry’
‘Pretty When You Cry’
‘Ride’
‘Born To Die’
‘Bartender’
‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club’
‘The Grants’
‘Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd’
‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’
‘Arcadia’
‘Candy Necklace’
‘Ocean Eyes’
‘Video Games’
‘Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – But I Have It’
‘A&W’
‘Young and Beautiful’

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