To a sold out crowd at The Fillmore, Mitski recalls a time in her life when she was cut off ten minutes into a set in a New York City dive bar by the opposition of her audience: a lone sound tech. Throughout the set, in honor of being able to perform at such a landmark venue, the singer-songwriter spoke of the worst performances she had ever experienced; a major contrast to the admiration and enjoyment of the crowd on April 13. An adorable, grateful Mitski was shown to the members of that audience that night, her animated features would always end whatever story she was on with the resolution that, despite all past ordeals, they all led her to where they were today. While under her enchantment, she would then suddenly start on the next song, the vibrations of a grungy guitar riff snapping me back into reality.
Mitski’s humility was charming, but her ability to oscillate between a soft, gentle figure and a guitar-shredding femme fatale was what made her captivating. The worldly artist opened her set with the invigorating track “Dan the Dancer” off of her newest album, Puberty 2 (2016). Immediately, the crowd started to bounce to the beat, awakening from the cosmic slumber placed by the lucid opening performance by R&B fusion artist Kadjha Bonet. After a sleepy, although entrancing cover of The Beatles’ song “Yesterday” by the up and coming singer, the crowd was ready to rock, and Mitski did more than deliver.
After “Dan,” a powerful drum beat started pounding through the venue, mimicking the heartbeat I felt in my chest. A transformative performance of “Once More to See You” was suddenly executed, and by the engagement of the audience, it was clear that the live setting gave a different perspective of the song that could only be seen in the powerful aura Mitski emitted in her presence. Only supported by the assistance of a single guitarist and drummer, the independent female artist proves it’s her raw lyrics and powerful melodies that truly deliver her work without the need for extraneous elements. Then, almost as if someone had hit a switch, Mitski was back in the same dimension as all of us, welcoming the audience in a soft voice placed in stark contrast to her fiercely passionate singing.
This pattern of impassioned rock n’ roll queen to composed, yet adorable, girl next door and back again continued throughout the set, granting the audience with everything one could expect a Mitski concert would be. From starting the night with two independent female openers, Steady Holiday and Kadhja Bonet, to the last few verses Mitski played on stage alone, accompanied only by her guitar and the belief that she began with only herself, and with only herself she can still succeed, everything about the evening exuded relentless girl power. As someone who has turned to Mitski’s lyrics in times of distress and in need of a medium to release my own inner anguish into, the energy she radiated onto the crowd was as revitalizing as it was grounding, as her lyrics reflected both weakness and empowerment within the same key. Her set ended sharply after a little under an hour of playing, but after a performance injected with so much zeal, an hour was all that was needed to densely pack the venue with an intense feeling that stayed with me all the way home.
Written by Delaney Gomen