All photos by Avery Heeringa

On the fourth and final day of Lollapalooza, it was abundantly clear that Chicago loves Lana Del Rey. From American flags with her photo superimposed to homemade Waffle House uniforms, swaths of young—mostly Gen Z and Millennial—fans showed off their very best homages to Del Rey for her first show back in Chicago since late 2019. Her headlining performance was filled with self-references, old Hollywood glamor, and an unparalleled melodramatic flair. 

Sauntering out with her hair in a ‘60s-inspired beehive, Del Rey took the Bud Light stage just after 8:30 p.m. Dressed in a gorgeous short white dress that resembled her 2016 Lollapalooza performance at the very same stage, she opened with “A&W.” Her attire was the first of many homages to past incarnations of her career that all landed as nostalgic and evolved rather than repetitive. Shortly after arriving onstage, she sat and sang as a hairdresser pinned shimmering butterfly clips into her beehive, revamping her distinct early 2010’s aesthetic that remains a fixture for her audience. 

But the wardrobe was not the only way she honored her past. The 18-song setlist ventured through (almost) all of her nine studio albums, administering both fan-favorites and surprising deep cuts. After the shortened performance of “A&W,” she launched into “Young and Beautiful,” which set the dream-like tone for the rest of the night. Though it was not a hot summer night in mid-July, as Del Rey sings of, feeling the cool evening breeze find its way through the sea of bodies was the most perfect way to begin the show. ​​​​​​​
Those of us who know the ins and outs of Del Rey’s catalog are well aware of just how rock ‘n’ roll she can be. With the live instrumentation from her large band, songs like “Pretty When You Cry,” “Blue Jeans” and “Cherry” all were brought to life in the most perfect over-the-top and thunderous ways. Others such as “Summertime Sadness” were remixed as well, but opted for a breezier and more paired-back instrumentation that gave a nice balance between head-bangers. 

Throughout the entire performance, Del Rey rarely cracked her calm and collected doe-eyed exterior, reserving her gratitude and smiles for a trip offstage to greet fans during “Ultraviolence.” As she wrapped up the song, she left the stage to take photos with, say hello to, and accept flowers from those at the front of the barricade. Her interactions with fans were displayed on the two large monitors, and even found her trying on a fan’s heart-shaped sunglasses. As a public figure who finds comfort in remaining elusive, it was particularly heart-warming to see her dedicate several minutes to thank her fans and embrace them. 

It’s clear that when with her fans, Del Rey feels most comfortable. Though it wasn’t frequent, she turned her back to the crowd intermittently, seemingly catching some slight stage fright then losing it just as quickly. She would occasionally show off her joy for the crowd’s buzzing energy, but maintained a nonchalant indifference that matched her sonic and aesthetic styles for most of the show. Because she was so harshly judged for her live performances early on in her career, seeing her feel comfortable with her fans was a reminder of how they’ve helped her just as much as she’s helped them along the way. ​​​​​​​
Another highlight of the evening was the video interlude before “Ride.” Compiling career-spanning clips—even including her “Lizzy Grant” days—and mixing that with the iconic monologue from the “Ride” music video was life-altering to say the least. Del Rey sat onstage with her dancers, backs to the crowd, watching clips of her past flash on screen. It was this sort of dramatization that set this performance apart from a classic festival set. 

After telling the crowd that one song had to be cut due to a strict curfew, she went into a captivatingly poignant performance of “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but I have it.” The performance included aerial spins and a male “dancer” who stood in place with angst and donned a “CIA” badge. All of which led to her being carried offstage while sitting on a white sheet. Though the quirks of the performance garnered a couple chuckles from surrounding audience members, it was quintessentially Del Rey to its core. 

She may not always make perfect sense, but that’s what makes Lana Del Rey and her art so consequential. The kinship she has with her audience is intricate and distinct, and it’s easy to forget just how massive her impact on young people—particularly young women and queer people—has been. By the end of the night, it was more apparent than ever that “heaven is a place on earth,” when Del Rey is in front of you. 

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