Lorde reigns in powerful show at Roseland Ballroom

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New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde performs in concert at New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde performs in concert at Roseland on Monday, March 10, 2014, in Manhattan. Photo Credit: AP / Evan Agostini

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Glenn Gamboa Newsday columnist Glenn Gamboa

Glenn Gamboa writes about music for Newsday.

Lorde may say she'll never be royal, but her Roseland Ballroom show Monday night suggested that she's more than ready to rule gothic pop for quite some time.

The 17-year-old, Grammy-winning New Zealander is the center of attention throughout her powerful show. No dancers. No major light show. Her band is simply a drummer and a keyboard player, who also control the stacks of vocals that Lorde sings over to recreate the potent songs from her debut "Pure Heroine."

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It's a risk to place so much pressure on a singer so young, especially since using so many taped pieces eliminates a lot of a concert's potential spontaneity. But it pays off for Lorde. She controls the spotlight, her body jerking around to the beat dramatically to punctuate her sentiments in her anthems like "White Teeth Teens" and "Team," her current single. "Team" featured the highest-tech trick of the night: confetti.

When she reaches her version of The Replacements' earnest, jangling "Swingin' Party," she strips everything back even further -- just her unenhanced voice over a minimal musical backdrop.

"I wanted to make a feeling into something tangible," she said, explaining her process as she introduced "Ribs." "There's nothing else more important."

Lorde, who returns to Roseland Tuesday night and Wednesday, showed that necessity as she threw her entire body into the song and the follow-up, the Grammy-winning "Royals."

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It's that sense of urgency that made Lorde's spare music work, and it makes her live show feel quite special.

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