Confused, yet amused

The Run the Jewels/Lorde show at Golden 1 Center didn’t make sense. But did it have to?

Run the Jewels blasts heavy beats for moms and preteens alike.

Run the Jewels blasts heavy beats for moms and preteens alike.

Photo courtesy of Dan Medhurst

On paper, it was an odd pairing: Lorde, the international pop singer/teen idol on her Melodrama World Tour, supported by Run the Jewels, the hard-hitting hip-hop duo made up of rapper/producer El-P and the beastly emcee known as Killer Mike. Heading into the concert on Monday, March 13, at Golden 1 Center, I expected the combination to make more sense afterward.

It didn’t.

My friend and I were there to see Run the Jewels, but we were clearly in the minority, lost as we were amid an ocean of teenage girls and young women (plus their parents) who were stoked out of their minds to see Lorde. Families politely filed in and found their seats while Run the Jewels delivered an all-out assault of heavy rap with beats cranked to rafter-shaking status.

Maybe Run the Jewels would tone it down for the family-oriented audience? No, they wouldn’t. Killer Mike pulled no punches whatsoever while delivering lyrical gems such as, “No hocus pocus, you simple suckers been served a notice / Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Folgers.” And the raps only got filthier, often making me laugh and bury my hands in my face due to embarrassment.

The two monster emcees absolutely lit it up for about 45 minutes, trading cartoonish, chest-thumping verses and captivating with their exaggerated physical interactions: El-P jumping around the front of the stage, Killer Mike swaggering menacingly in the shadows. The stadium treatment was most appropriate on songs such as “Legend Has It,” with its pixelated production from El-P and his furiously funny lyrics about being the Tinder of hip-hop: “Don’t make a sound, baby, hush / I am the living swipe right on the mic, I’m a slut.”

After a particularly hard-knocking rendition of “Blockbuster Night Part 1,” El-P thanked the parents in the audience “who brought their kids to the show,” apologized for the flagrant cursing, and assured the kids that “you can do better than us.” Their set had been everything I’d dreamed, but this was Lorde’s show for sure. The duo’s red-hot raps fell on a mostly indifferent audience; we saw tons of screens in laps and in front of faces.

Admittedly, I’d never listened to Lorde outside of her inescapable radio hits, like “Royals” and “Team,” but the audience’s excitement was infectious. Everywhere I looked, people were singing along word-for-word and losing themselves in the moment. It was an opportunity to experience a full-on cultural phenomenon as an outside observer, to bask in the sheer spectacle and excitement.

Despite not recognizing most of the songs, I thought Lorde looked and sounded amazing. She was clearly singing along with a backing track, but I appreciated that her vocals were surprisingly raw-sounding—not pitch-corrected with auto-tune. And her stage show had a blockbuster budget, complete with a troupe of artful backup dancers, a floating glass rectangle and ultra-fancy digital projections suspended over the audience. After putting back a $15 Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, it all seemed like magic.

At the end of the night, my friend and I agreed both Run the Jewels and Lorde had been electric, but there had seemed to be very little crossover appeal. In any case, for us, it was a total blast.