Concert review: Melanie Martinez w/ Tanukichan | 07.10.23, Saint Louis Music Park (with photo gallery)

Photo of Melanie Martinez by Bryan J. Sutter

As I arrived at Saint Louis Music Park for Melanie Martinez’s sold-out performance, I was met with what had to be the longest line I’ve ever seen in the nearly 14 years I have been writing about and photographing live music. The double-platinum artist has had a dedicated fanbase since she signed with Atlantic Records and this stop on her Portals tour had been sold out for some time, so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. I don’t think I’ve seen so many young folks in dark clothes baking in the sun since Ozzfest was a thing. At least this crowd smelled like sunscreen and fruity vape juice. Ozzfest, from my memory, smelled like body odor and shitty cigarettes.

On to the show.

Bay area songwriter Tanukichan opened up the evening. Her 2023 release Gizmo is a wonderful showcase of the contemporary shoegaze sound that’s currently having a moment. Tanukichan and her two bandmates received a very warm reception from the crowd. I’ll give the trio props for covering that Dido song (you know the one) and actually making it work in a big way.

Of course, everyone was here to see alt-pop sensation Melanie Martinez. On her latest record Portals, Martinez’s Cry Baby alter-ego has grown into a sort of forest nymph, which has found itself in the rounds of life and death. This set dressing showcases Martinez’s most introspective and mature work to date. Accompanied by a live band (with a theremin) and four dancers, Melanie Martinez performed every song from Portals, with the encore consisting of the three songs from the deluxe edition of the record, in the order they appear on the track listing. Nothing more, nothing less.

This sounds like it could be disappointing, but I am happy to say this approach worked incredibly well. This focus resulted in a performance that felt complete and intentional, as if Portals were written with this theatrical presentation in mind. I found myself getting goosebumps during the “Venus” interlude between “Faerie Soirée” and “Light Shower” as Martinez stood alone and the entire crowd sang along with their whole chest. The evening was peppered with little moments like this, where it felt like both sides of the stage were on the same frequency.

I don’t say things like this very often, but it felt special. Like there was nothing else going on in the world. Except maybe, the rounds of life and death. | Bryan J. Sutter

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