Lorde played Key Arena on March 9.
Lorde played Key Arena on March 9. rich smith

Just announced! Jon Bellion at WaMu Theater on 7/16/19. Tix on sale this Friday!

Around the halfway point in Lorde’s Friday night show at Key Arena, it was obvious we’d reached The Serious Part. She sat down in a flowing white skirt, the stage went dark except for the spotlight on her, and she sang the two slow ballads from her new album, plus a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Solo.” It was beautiful. She looked beautiful. The cell phone flashlights in the crowd were beautiful. That little “ah-na-na-na-na” in “Liability” was beautiful and it will always be beautiful.

But these quiet songs about being alone (though not necessarily lonely) aren’t what make Lorde so addictingly Lorde.

That pure hit of Lorde comes when she gets loud. When she sings “Sober II (Melodrama)” against a totally excessive backdrop of dancers suspended in a glass box above the stage. When more dancers carry her on her back during “The Louvre.” When she lies on the floor beside a male dancer in a monochrome sweatsuit belting out “Supercut” like it’s a high school theater production. It comes most of all when Lorde, an undeniably bad dancer, dances anyway.

In these moments, she’s not trying to break your heart. She’s winking at you. Isn’t this all a little over the top? And don’t you love it? It is. And you do.

Can you hear the violence?
Can you hear the violence? rich smith

If Lorde (Ella Yelich-O'Connor) noticed that the room was only two-thirds-full Friday night, she didn’t show it. The performance oscillated between the teenage “Tennis Court” angst on Pure Heroine that made her famous and the heartbreak/nostalgia/fuck-it-let’s-party that makes Melodrama the kind of breakup album that also makes you want to dance.

She brought backup dancers and that floating box/cage contraption above the stage but never really needed any of it. Every song landed because she seemed to be having the time of her life. She told the crowd about playing The Showbox in 2013 and making a glass bowl at some Seattle glass-blowing studio. She used a gimmick she probably does at every show but that worked on us anyway: “Bring the lights up, I want to see ‘em,” she told the stage crew. “You look so fucking beautiful, Seattle. I’d definitely hit on you in a bar.”

Then, she set up the finale. “Think about anyone who has wronged you,” she said, “anyone who has fucked with your heart, anyone you pity, anyone you love so much sometimes it feels like you hate them.” She launched into a thunderous “Green Light.” Confetti showered the audience. Everyone lost it, forgetting to act self-conscious about loving the hit. “Fuck yeah!!!” a guy near me yelled.

These are the moments when Lorde is cracking you open. She is not Flawless. She’s laughing, goofy, still acting a little surprised she made it this far. She’s cocky but gracious; heartbroken but still dancing; famous enough to play arena shows but rolling her eyes at herself a little. And she’s inviting you to join her.

In a world that prefers to channel young women into one camp or the other—all pure sincerity or cool-girl irony—it still feels rare to watch someone reject the dichotomy altogether. Lorde is both. And when we’re with her, we can be, too.