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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Mitski dances like ‘Nobody’ is watching at MGM Music Hall

The singer of “My Love Mine All Mine” delivers a captivating performance.

Mitski Photo.jpeg

Mitski performs at Day In Day Out Festival in Seattle, Wash. on Aug. 12, 2022.

Mitski’s discography is known for its emotional depth, exploring intimate themes of yearning, isolation and heartache. Her lyrical complexity and soft melodies have earned her the label of a “sad girl indie” artist. After contemplating retiring from music in 2019, she released “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We” in September 2023, marking a resurgence of her sentimental lyrics, only this time, they exuded more warmth and sincerity. One would expect a tour for this gentle and emotionally raw album to have a somber and possibly depressing atmosphere, but that was not the vibe at MGM Music Hall at Fenway on Thursday night.

Opening with “Everyone” from her 2022 studio album “Laurel Hell,” Mitski sang the song enshrouded behind a curtain, building anticipation among the audience. The curtain fell just before “Buffalo Replaced” (2023), during which her elegant hand movements let the audience know that this is no ordinary concert they are about to witness: This is Mitski and she is going to perform authentically and unapologetically as herself. She continues allowing her hands and the rest of her body to feel the music passionately as the lights turn bright red and she plunges into “Working for the Knife,” the lead single from “Laurel Hell” (2022).

Mitski then introduced herself and her seven-piece band, noting that it consisted of “a few Berklee [College of Music] grads.” The singer does not think of herself as a typical celebrity — exhibited by the fact that she addresses the audience as if collectively they were an old friend. “Boston as a city is incredibly deep and complex,” she said, moving to sit on the front of the stage. “And that’s beautiful. But have y’all as a city ever considered therapy?” The question elicited an eruption of audience laughter.

“No, you won’t get therapy, and you know why?” she continued. “Because you’re old and the older generation never gets therapy. Everyone gets therapy about you, but you won’t get therapy.” She added her own self-deprecating quip, “Guys, I don’t think she’s talking about Boston anymore!”, before delving into her warm and folksy “The Frost” (2023), during which she strummed her heart out on an imaginary guitar.

After her jazzy rendition of “Valentine, Texas” (2022), Mitski addressed the audience once again, this time to casually disclose how excited she was. Just before the show, an old colleague had let her know that her name was the answer to a question on the popular game show “Jeopardy” (1984–), and the contestant who answered the question correctly ended up winning the game. Mitski said this meant more to her than the accolades or critical acclaim she has received for her music. She typically doesn’t care about her own achievements but relishes when other people find success because of her.

“And this would be a great topic to explore in therapy!” she said with jazz hands, beaming with pride at her ability to circle back to her earlier speech.

A unique and powerful performer, Mitski takes command of the entire stage. Her dramatic choreography took the form of mesmerizing interpretive dance. For some songs she pantomimed her lyrics with movement; during “I Bet On Losing Dogs” (2016) she crawled around on the stage and during “First Love/Late Spring” (2014) she stood on a chair and mimicked losing her balance while singing the line “One word from you and I would jump off of this ledge I’m on.” Her performance of “Heaven” (2023) included an intimate slow dance with the spotlight. And while singing “My Love Mine All Mine” (2023), Mitski’s first song to appear on the Billboard Hot 100, a magnificent arrangement of reflective fragments hanging on strings descended around her.

The audience was seated for most of the show, but during the encore, everyone rose to their feet. These were more upbeat songs: “Nobody” and “Washing Machine Heart” from “Be the Cowboy” (2018) — two songs that garnered popularity in recent years on TikTok. While the concert had been a space for reflection and pure awe at Mitski’s vocal prowess and performance style, the encore had everyone dancing and celebrating the very subject Mitski’s music seeks to express: being human.