Photo of Mitski by Bao Ngo, courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR.
Something about Mitski’s performance at Delmar Hall felt incredibly odd. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The crowd was entranced. Applause was loud and appreciative. The band and their leader, grateful. Yet it felt very mechanical.
Let me explain. This feeling started early on when the lead singer (Melina Duterte) of the opening band, Jay Som, noted that the crowd was incredibly kind and polite. Which is accurate. It moved from one song to the next with perfunctory applause until the evening ended. Is this just how it feels to go to an indie show at a smaller venue?
Let’s talk about the performance though. As noted, the entertainment for the evening was everything I expected and more. Live, the music that Mitski performed was captivating. Older songs, of which there were many, were given a new life with a full band. One-third of the setlist was composed of 2014 album Bury Me At Makeout Creek. Even older songs like “Goodbye My Danish Sweetheart” and “Liquid Smooth” fit right into the set without feeling dated and highlighted her skillful vocal intonations.
With a chair and table set up on the stage, at points the show felt like a tense conversation between the crowd on one side and Mitski the other. Sometimes, it served as a barrier between herself and the audience when the song called for it. Most often, the table was used almost as something you would use at a gym to stretch or for a yoga session. (If there is a Mitski-hosted yoga class out there, I’m in.) Mitski did not speak to the audience and the lack of interaction added to the oddity as the crowd grew intensely quiet between some songs. Usually, that type of feeling comes from boredom, but the room was always excited to see what would come next.
This was the Be the Cowboy tour, though, and that being the case, it was a bit of a disappointment to only hear about sixty-percent of what many thought was one of the best albums of 2018. Almost every song off the album was a highlight from bouncy “Why Didn’t You Stop Me” early on all the way until the contemplative “Two Slow Dancers” during the encore.
That is the complication of finding balance as an artist with a growing discography and rapidly growing fanbase. Luckily her fanbase is ravenously listening to her back catalogue if the amount of people singing every song is any indication. At the end of the day, Mitski seems committed to doing things her way, and those decisions have her as one of the popular indie artists of 2019. | Bruce Matlock