Around the corner from Vicar Street you’ll find a small venue called the Tivoli, masquerading under the boujee title of “theatre”, but with an appearance akin to a grungier Whelan’s. Here, singer-songwriter-producer Mitski will come onstage exactly on time and play to a packed room, looking slightly shaken at the whole thing, and the gathered crowd will politely cheer until the band launches into a searingly loud rendition of “Remember My Name”.
This song sets the tone. If it sounds like a Hole comeback track, it only gets deeper into grunge power from here, with the unholy power-chord-and-programmed-beat gut punch of “I Don’t Smoke” and the rollicking “Washing Machine Heart”. This segues into the singalong moment of “Francis Forever”. “Thursday Girl” sounds at its most glacial, “I Bet On Losing Dogs” is a desperate spectre of a song, and the unsteady falsetto when she sings “while you sleep, I’ll be scared, but by the time you wake I’ll be brave” on “I Will” is a hugely cathartic moment.
“It never feels like Mitski settles completely into the performance, and that’s what makes it impossible to look away”
It never feels like Mitski settles completely into the performance, and that’s what makes it impossible to look away. That feeling of liminality, always being between and in-transition, permeates her live performance as it does her music. She slips in and out of so many genres: grunge, folk, electronica, dub, disco. The only constant is her gorgeous voice and melodies that can be ripped wholesale from the instrumentals and thrown into quiet bedrooms, showers, or the personal bubble of each audience member filled with memory, re-contextualised to fit.
“Her movement is the picture of awkwardness and introversion purposefully re-contextualised into a sort of broken choreography, consistently weird and mesmerising.”
This isn’t to say that she didn’t completely own it. Her vocals are on point, as is her playing and dancing. She dips her torso and springs back up like Solange, walks from one side of the stage to the other over and over again, stands and flaps her hand throughout the whole of “Happy”, and lets loose on “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?”. This song is an instant highlight, bursting immediately into chugging Robyn synths and climbing until it breathlessly crashes to a close after just two and a half minutes, like most Mitski songs. Her movement is the picture of awkwardness and introversion purposefully re-contextualised into a sort of broken choreography, consistently weird and mesmerising. Whenever she addresses the audience she is softly-spoken so she may sweetly thank everyone and marvel at the unexpected crowd. Her music can be loud and fluid as the tenuous grasp we have on our own identities in our twenties, but her essence is gentle and completely attuned to the sometimes complex, sometimes obvious emotions of young people. By the time she gets to “Nobody”, the almost humorously sad disco banger, it’s as if each time the audience chips away at something deep and unsayable with each repeated “nobody”.
Mitski was a deft performer with a razor-sharp setlist, a rich live sound, and a sense of gentle connection in the searing catharsis of her music. The crowd, however, were shit. Being hypnotised into stillness is something that happens at gigs, but a crowd that stays completely static during dance numbers and grunge rockers is highly suspect. The only reasonable explanation is bandwagon-jumping, as if people saw that Mitski had become somewhat of a thing in cool circles and went to the gig expecting slow “Sad Girl” songs and didn’t know what to do with themselves when it was upbeat. The fact that one man told a woman who was singing along to be quiet is hilariously illustrative of the performative allyship of the straight-male half of the audience, as if the act of just going to Mitski would give them “Nice Guy” points. Taking your girlfriends to see Mitski doesn’t count as emotional labour. Go see Kojaque if you want to feel like being in touch with your emotions is radical.
“Her music can be loud and fluid as the tenuous grasp we have on our own identities in our twenties, but her essence is gentle and completely attuned to the sometimes complex, sometimes obvious emotions of young people”
A lyric from the first song of the evening comes to mind: “I gave too much of my heart tonight”. By the first song of the encore, the elegiac “Two Slow Dancers”, it was obvious that everyone in the room was with her in the deafening silence between each spaced-out chord. Mitski gave everything and that’s what matters; she cemented her place as a consummate performer with an astonishingly rich back catalogue that burst into colourful life in a live environment. The right ones will remember her name.
Remember My Name
I Don’t Smoke
Washing Machine Heart
First Love / Late Spring
Me and My Husband
Dan the Dancer
Once More to See You
I Bet On Losing Dogs
I Want You
Come Into the Water
Your Best American Girl
Why Didn’t You Stop Me?
Drunk Walk Home
My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars
A Burning Hill
Two Slow Dancers
Goodbye My Danish Sweetheart