An American-made dream: Lana Del Rey’s Norman F*cking Rockwell!

Let’s go on a psychedelic trip through the soothing scores of an introspective falsetto, floating to the ceiling where we’ll ultimately burst into a descension of glitter. Packed in like sardines, a vibration of anxiety and excitement takes over the room. A girl passes out up front. Another one is held back by her boyfriend as she looks ready to throw hands at the girl beside her. It’s absolute chaos and then—darkness.

Photo by Meria Ivy.

“Goddamn, man child,” illuminated the background. “You f*cked me so good that I almost said / I love you……”

A queer clamor erupts.

Enter Lana Del Rey in an effervescent ascension to the stage, white Midsommaresque dress dragging across the floor. We’re not in our world anymore. This is Normal Fucking Rockwell!

Lana Del Rey came to Des Moines, Iowa, on Nov. 10, performing to a sold out crowd of girls and gays at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. Rey embarked on her fifth headlining concert tour this fall for her sixth studio album, starting off in the United States and headed for the Middle East, South America, and Europe.

In this small concert hall, Lana Del Rey stans got intimate with the performer as she traipsed off stage twice to sign autographs for pit concertgoers, while she simultaneously took hits of a crowd member’s blunt. This is what dreams are made of—at least the dream of the five girls that shoved their way near me, pushing people aside and cutting others off from seeing a clear shot of the stage and consequently Del Rey herself in the hopes to meet their idol.

“She surrounded the audience in a cacophony of angelic, joyful, bitter, bored, seductive, and melancholic tones…”

nichole shaw

Amidst the light sound of Lana Del Rey’s deconstructed head voice, a spine-tingling tension erupted from the sinewy arms of concert goers, invading the energy of the mosh pit. The intense fan mob mentality took over, putting everyone on edge in a space that was intended for togetherness, unity, and acceptance among a demographic of girls and queer individuals that have been marginalized and silenced for their identity presentations. It was a disappointing caveat to witness while Lana herself glided across the stage, falling into the sensual arms of her dancers, to the sinuous back of her guitarist’s, and back to the seraphic shoulders of her pianist.

Despite the occult nature of the crowd, Del Rey’s spirit transcended to the ceiling beams. She surrounded the audience in a cacophony of angelic, joyful, bitter, bored, seductive, and melancholic tones as she went through the Norman Fucking Rockwell! Album alongside a medley of her greatest hits, including “Summertime Sadness” and “Young and Beautiful.”

Photo by Meria Ivy.

I entered the reminiscent realm of 70s rock, pulling forth the forgotten California life I never got to live, a nostalgia I ache with even though it was never mine. I imagine it must have been like driving along the sandy shores, mercury mountain ranges, tangerine canyon structures, and big tree parks, picking peaches off their sprouted limbs, the juice sticking to your skin and dripping down your chest—a quiet romance between you and a sickly sweetness.

The Norman Fucking Rockwell! Record takes you on a journey of “curiosity and consequence” as Pitchfork puts it. A classic-pop-rock sonority, Lana Del Rey emboldened herself on stage teetering on the edges of this darkness and light, an apocalyptic invitation to reunite an inverse 70s era with provocative modern lyricism.

It’s an American reckoning, with eclectic, psychedelic guitar riffs hovering over my head alongside angelic piano balladry. Couple that with a heart-wrenching falsetto and sensual, sexually liberating moves, and an American starchild is born, ready to immerse themselves into the atmosphere and be lifted into a space of human connection through art.

I hear the child’s first cries into this world, its sound ascending as Del Rey descends the stage, singing these lines from the last song of the night:

“And as the summer fades away / Nothing gold can stay / You write, I tour, we make it work / You’re beautiful and I’m insane / We’re American-made.”

Photo by Meria Ivy.

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