Experience made the difference at Lorde and Haim’s Cosmo shows

Lorde performs at the Boulevard Pool on April 15.
Erik Kabik/Retna

Two and a half stars

Lorde April 15, Boulevard Pool

Four stars

Haim April 17, Boulevard Pool

Last year, the world watched as two unknown pop acts rose to the top of the charts, taking over radio stations and magazine covers until we all knew their names. Cloaked in teenage angst and infectious electro-hop rhythms, Ella Yelich-O’Connor—better known as Lorde—ascended into the limelight at age 16, while the three Haim sisters, all in their 20s, helped bring ’90s R&B back to life. And last week, the Cosmopolitan brought both acts to its Boulevard Pool during its batch of Coachella bookings dubbed Valley to Vegas.

Lorde’s eager minimalism never quite transferred to the stage. At her Vegas debut on Tuesday, she thrashed and jerked her way through “Ribs,” “Team” and, of course, “Royals,” fighting to command the attention of a crowd numbering more than 1,000 without help from a full live band. Lorde has had us in her spell from The Love Club EP to the full-length Pure Heroine—what teen star has ever referenced a Broken Social Scene song in one of her own?—but as a live artist, Lorde depends too heavily on her recorded perfection, even if that’s what brought her fans out in the first place.

Two nights later, Haim won over its crowd almost effortlessly. The trio’s live set was rough and raw around the edges and starkly different from its shiny record, Days Are Gone. And while Danielle, Este and Alana Haim didn’t do anything too different from October’s Life Is Beautiful set, their stage act still felt wild and improvisational. Danielle’s powerful guitar solos stole the spotlight, but Este (bass) and Alana (guitar) were never too far away, both often doing something just as daring on their instruments of choice. And combined, the three jammed like they’ve been doing it together forever—because they have.

Comparing these instrument-wielding musicians to a young singer-songwriter like Lorde hardly seems fair, but the 17-year-old could learn from her contemporaries. While Lorde’s low-risk set minimized mishaps, Thursday’s crowd looked on as Danielle Haim played a wrong chord, then chugged through it, because sh*t happens. And that’s a mistake Lorde hasn’t even had the chance to make.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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