The Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, CA
2/28/20

Certain venues achieve a fine balance between the intimacy of a tiny club with the space and magnitude of a stadium. The Hollywood Palladium hits this sweet spot with a sweeping, basketball court of a GA section surrounded by additional, raised vantage points, allowing for optimal views across the whole venue. Thanks to this balance, a contemporary star like Dua Lipa feels closer while a legend like Robert Plant remains just removed enough to inspire awe. Tove Lo, who took hold of the latter 2010s with her wild-child take on Swede pop, fit in perfectly.

Friday night concluded the final leg of the Sunshine Kitty Tour, a pop star performance with the vestiges of a night out clubbing. Tove Lo built her brand up by coating pop music’s classic tools (hooks,emotional commonalities) in a veneer of sarcasm, debauchery, and unhinged honesty. Because of her grit, her star flies a little lower to the ground, weighed down by realism but also what sometimes registers as performative hedonism. Admittedly, some of her concepts like the album art, a Tumblr Polaroid take on Roger Rabbit…, register as forced, dulling her edges.

The opening acts, fellow Scandinavian Alma and New Zealand’s Broods, helped sharpen said edges. Spunky upstart Alma set the rebellious attitude of the night, her throaty belt an admirable rallying cry for youthful insubordination. To add some heaviness to the atmosphere, Broods then galloped in on flitting, shimmering productions that belied hints of melancholy and unease. Like Tove Lo, neither act fit the traditional, modern pop mold. But in a time of Lorde, the Weeknd, and Billie Eilish, those boundaries grow nebulous and unimportant.
This hazy point between pop star and antihero is where Tove Lo lies, and this crowd was ready for her. At this point in the evening, a haze hovered over the crowd, a mix of fog machine and body heat. No other aura would suffice. When the self-named Queen of the Clouds arrived, she was in her element.

“To the industry people,” she said, “Now is not the time to network. It’s the time to dance.”

Flanked by synthesizers and silhouetted by an LED half-moon, Tove Lo took the role of a spaceship captain. Behind her a kaleidoscope of galaxies, sunset hues, and living shag carpeting unfolded, a thoughtful treat for the largely intoxicated crowd. These effects served the show well visually since Tove’s injury (a broken foot) limited her mobility. That said, you’d never have known unless she mentioned something.

Not that anyone needed much choreo considering the impressiveness of her catalog. Half-a-decade’s worth of material meant situations that ranged from the romp of “True Disaster” to the sweeping, self-effacing drama of “Moments”. This setlist touched upon most of the desired cuts, though it foolishly omitted “Equally Lost” and “Stay Over.”

These oversights became overlooked as Tove began introducing her guests: the expected Alma on “Bad as the Boys”, and the slightly unexpected Charli XCX in Matrix shades. From the meh-okay “Bitches” the trio swooped into the magnificent “Out of My Head”, a real treat for the close of the tour.

Throughout this “fuckton of songs,” Tove Lo’s vocals remained pretty solid. In fact, one of her best performances happened near the show’s end on “Sweettalk My Heart,” the high notes of the chorus as clear as a bell. She also saved one final surprise for the night by closing on “Bikini Porn,” her latest single with Finneas. I expected “Habits”, her most popular anthem, as the finale, but up to the end, Tove Lo continued to surprise me.

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