There comes a point in the development of many artist’s careers where you can sense a shift in the way that they carry themselves. Usually it’s after years of performing and gaining acclaim — enough time for them to feel established in their art form and style. There’s less to prove, no need to affirm their talent or worth to the masses.
Mitski’s sold-out performance at the 9:30 Club on Friday seemed to be a clear example of that. Fresh off the release of her critically acclaimed album Be The Cowboy, Mitski — whose full name is Mitski Miyawaki — embarked on a sold-out nationwide tour to share her new music and the raw power of her talent with her audience.
The show opened with “Remember My Name,” one of the songs off her newest project. Mitski didn’t open the show with the typical pleasantries that performers usually go through in a new city. Seemingly setting the tone for the night, she dove straight into her act, crooning and moving around stage with an intensity that captivated the audience.
Her setlist quickly indulged older fans, as the room chanted the lyrics to “First Love/Late Spring” word for word, a popular song off her 2014 album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek. Despite the fact that she was playing music from a few years ago, there was a palpable difference in her demeanor.
Mitski’s older performances were usually more acoustic-based, with her primarily singing and playing guitar. For this show, however, there was a full backing band, and she was mostly focused on her vocals as well as some passionate choreography — at many points, her arms and head would make rigid, robotic movements while she danced around. During her performance of “Francis Forever,” she began pacing the length of the stage, picking up speed until she was basically running at the end of the song.
She eventually did chat with the crowd a bit, in her soft spoken and carefully reserved demeanor. She thanked the audience, and shared a funny story about how someone approached her in the lobby of her hotel while was waiting for her Lyft to the venue, assuming she was emotionally distressed while she was just sitting absentmindedly.
“I guess I just exude loneliness,” she said with a chuckle, and the crowd cheered.
There probably aren’t many shows where that type of comment would garner a positive reaction, but Mitski knows her audience — and that includes many people who enjoy her music for it’s heart wrenching honesty, and poetic ability to describe heartbreak, sadness, and pain in a beautiful way.
For an artist who started off on bandcamp as a SUNY Purchase student — and yes, she did talk about the Danny DeVito shrine — the leaps and bounds that her career has made in the past few years have been something to watch. “Nobody,” a single from Be The Cowboy, has reached almost 6.4 million streams on Spotify. Punk legend Iggy Pop referred to her as “the most advanced American songwriter” he knows.
Perhaps this transitional period is so fascinating to witness because we are seeing the talent of a gifted writer become fully realized. She doesn’t need a superfluous set design, crazy costumes, or even much promotion for her tour to be well-known and loved. In this post-Be The Cowboy era, Mitski has proved to us all, that she alone is enough.