When my partner and I were getting to know each other, he asked about my 'guilty pleasure' listening. I pointed him reluctantly toward Lana del Rey, fully aware that her lyrics - dominated up to that point by Americana, febrile beaches and mysterious older European men - would be a total tell that I was into him. He admits he spent that summer lying on the sand in a Portuguese pocket of the Atlantic bewitched by his iPod - truly the finest way to experience Ms del Rey. However, a festival in Paris' historic Bois du Boulogne isn't bad either. Last weekend we caught a glimpse of the singer during her first performance following the release of Lust for Life, her fifth album, at Lollapalooza's new French incarnation.

Lana walked on stage promptly at half past eight o'clock on her human legs and wedge-sandaled feet - not materialising spontaneously, or floating down from the fly system on the 'del Rey' backdrop sign, as I half-expected her to. In anticipation of seeing her so soon after the album's release, I mainlined Lust for Life the two days before. Yet after quickly greeting the audience ("It's so good to be in Paris, the most glamorous city in the whole world"), she instead began a little falteringly with 'Cruel World', the initial track from two albums ago, then drifted into 'Shades of Cool'. My first impression was that the performance lacked energy. I soon realised what it actually lacked was the nervousness her live shows were once known for, and the artifice that she is often slated for. And despite being several rows back, surrounded by girls swaying atop shoulders, I felt I was right there with Lana. Her stage presence has become intimate, genuine - something clearly reflected in the new album.

Notably, she seems to have slipped out of her babydoll Lolita persona to reveal something more fully-fledged. In contrast to previous albums, where she positions herself as a bad-gal adolescent, this time around del Rey addresses 'kids' as a group she is separate from. In her first single, 'Love', she coos "Look at you kids you know you're the coolest/ the world is yours and you can't refuse it/ seen so much you could get the blues but/ that don't mean that you should abuse it." Lana is the cool older sister - been there, done that - a role that is essential to her newfound maturity. For someone previously obsessed with the idea of control ('Money, Power, Glory' and 'Fucked My Way Up to the Top') she has discovered true power in the influence of her music and stardom and is using this to galvanise her fans into positive action. (Including a recent Twitter call that spawned the best headline I have seen in years, 'Lana del Rey confirms attempt to use witchcraft against Donald Trump', from NME). And she knows who she's talking to. No stranger herself to insecurity and depression, she addresses the Anxiety Generation as an insider. In 'Heroin' she sings about "takin' all my medicine to take my thoughts away" and pleads in 'Change' for the ability to be "honest, capable, beautiful, stable," the last surely causing a ripple of recognition among our plastic-flower-crowned assembly. When she offers a startlingly good acoustic version of 'Love' and trills "it's enough just to make you go crazy, crazy, crazy, I know," it is the crowd crooning softly back to her, to each other, "don't worry baby" that hits harmonies on several levels.

The rain that threatened all evening began to fall and she came out from under the proscenium. "I wanna get close to you guys, so I can get wet" she said with what must have been a wink. She descended into the audience for a solid three minutes in the middle of her set, ciel blue dress aflutter. Watching the crowd there crush against its barriers (alas, catching the finish of the Tour de France a mere hour before meant we couldn't get that close) I was reminded again of Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville, a comparison that first struck with the release Lust For Life's artwork, where del Rey's flared white peasant dress and dark, festooned, country-singer mane seemed an obvious homage to Altman's adored, doomed starlet Barbara Jean. I wonder if del Rey, who is well-educated in 20th-century music history (something she doesn't let us forget with the frequent borrowing of classic lyrics), hasn't made this nod on purpose. Nashville was a controversial portrait of post-Nixon America in crisis centred around the music scene in the synecdochic southern city of the same name. Seen through the lampooning eye of a self-important BBC reporter, its cast of carnivalesque characters prepare to elect a populist business man as president. If Lana has planned this, it is a timely parallel. America is in a similar position now where it is a laughing stock across the pond, indeed Trump himself was in Paris just one week before playing strange hand games on the Champs Elysees.

Lana emerged from the sea of selfies, autographs and embraces carrying a wrapped gift and adjusting a silver laurel wreath offered from a fan's own head. ('It really sets off my beehive.') Like Barbara Jean, she gives herself to her following more fully than many artists today, despite very public struggles with privacy invasion. Taking requests from the crowd, she sings a few soaring acapella lines from 'Body Electric' 'just because you have that tattoo!' Celebrity and starfucking is a central theme in Lust For Life, as well as Nashville. Tracks like 'Groupie Love' recall the classic scene in the film where Keith Carradine sings love song 'I'm Easy' and at least three different women in the crowd think it is especially for them. Lana includes collaborative tracks with Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon, perhaps in unnecessary effort to cement herself among music royalty, but they feel like gilded cameos, at best. Celebrity is a cornerstone of Populism. But as an American, I'm much happier to be represented by del Rey in the City of Lights.

It's no secret that in this album, del Rey is making the personal political. Hexes and conjuring aside, she offers both solace and advice. 'When the World was at War Before, We Just Kept Dancing' feels similar to 'It Don't Worry Me', the culminating track in Nashville that plays glossily over the story's tragic denouement. But the comparison ends here. In a change from her signature despondency, Lana moves away from both personal and political apathy, philosophising, "change is a powerful thing, people are powerful beings." She doesn't shy from her or the world's problems behind a falsetto facade (although the title track may be the saccharine exception), but rather accepts them, urging "we are beautiful people with beautiful problems, but we gotta try." Nicks joins in, "My heart is soft, my past is rough," a reminder to not allow tough experiences harden you.

Lana finished 'Off to the Races' and, as punctually as she arrived, exited stage left without an encore. Her band lingered, playing into gently fading chaos for the hopeful strands of crowd that remained. And there, grooving on a shoulder-perch of my own, I realised I have fully come out about my Lana-love. She's grown up. So have I, and it's left me a little less shy about what makes me happy. Her shyness is shed too, and though her voice still warbles with delicious vulnerability, I get the sense that Lana is finally singing for herself.