Tove Lo Confessed Her Bad 'Habits' While Undressing the Highline Ballroom

Tove Lo at the Highline Ballroom
Tove Lo at the Highline Ballroom
Karen Gardiner for the Village Voice

Tove Nilsson — better known as Tove Lo — started her music career penning hits for the likes of Girls Aloud and fellow Swedes Icona Pop. Given that history, it's hardly surprising that she knows how to craft a killer chorus. But what's really special about the tunes she has kept for herself is her refreshingly frank attitude when it comes to spilling her guts on record.

"I'm not the prettiest you've ever seen," she sings on "Moments," "but I have my moments." It is a welcome change from the braggadocio and claims to eternal flawlessness peddled by many of today's pop stars. Tove Lo tells tales many of her peers would shy away from — about alcohol abuse, throwing up, ill-advised hookups — but not in a "Wooo, I'm so bad!" kind of way. Rather, she is laying bare the truth of being a young woman muddling her way through life and the many mistakes and horrible moments that come with that. And that's what makes her so relatable.

She certainly seems to have hit a nerve and gathered a devoted fan base. On Wednesday, March 25, a sold-out Highline Ballroom sang along with every word in a punchy set culled mostly from last fall's debut LP, Queen of the Clouds. Promising singer-songwriter Phoebe Ryan opened the show with a short set that included an inspired R. Kelly/Miguel mash-up. "Ignition/Do You..." (as in, "do you like drugs?") set the tone for Tove Lo's entrance.

"Hey, babes," Tove Lo's voice announced from offstage. "I just want to strip off my clothes and dance naked with you all." There then followed a rather drawn-out story about meeting a guy in a club: "I was high...so was he," she confesses, and it gets a massive cheer. On record, Tove may mine her tales of excess for the agony contained within, but a lot of that nuance is lost when delivering those songs to a buzzed crowd that feeds off the fun stuff.

"My Gun" opened the set, followed by "Not on Drugs," Tove bopping around the stage, frequently encouraging arms in the air, and rarely uttering a between-song sentence that didn't include the word "fuck." With her unflagging energy and affection for her audience, she was forgiven for missing more than a few notes.

Unlike Queen of the Clouds, which is split into three very deliberate parts that mark the progress of a new relationship — THE SEX/THE LOVE/THE PAIN — her setlist flitted around the album, occasionally dipping outside, as she did with the uplifting EDM hit "Heroes (we could be)," originally recorded with Alesso, and "Over," from her Truth Serum EP.

She was constantly engaged with her audience, for whom she seemed thrilled to perform. For "This Time Around" she encouraged everyone to make out with each other, then instructed the audience to take their clothes off during "Talking Body." "I want to see your hot bodies!" she yelled, and was rewarded with a bra thrown on stage, to which she responded with a delighted "Fuck yeah!"

Returning for an encore, she briefly took a darker turn, displaying life in all its vomit- and tear-streaked mess with her biggest hit, "Habits (Stay High)," a song that tells a tale of throwing up in the bathtub and depending upon drugs to keep an ex off her mind. But then she rounded out with a rousing rendition of "Timebomb," sending her fans off into a New York night filled with possibilities with a lyrical celebration of the joy of a short-term romance: "We're not forever, you're not the one/You and I could be the best thing ever." Some of those bad habits merit a celebration.

See also: Pop's Not-So-Secret Weapon: How Nostalgia Shaped Music in 2014 Slutist's Legacy of the Witch Casts a Powerful, Feminine Spell Laura Marling Mesmerizes With the Live Debut of Short Movie at Warsaw


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Highline Ballroom

431 W. 16th St.
New York, NY 10011

212-414-5994

www.highlineballroom.com


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