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Photo: Melina Skeete/VOX ATL

The Ever So Vulnerable Mitski’s Intimate Atlanta Performance [REVIEW]

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On Nov. 14, singer-songwriter Mitski had her Atlanta concert at The Masquerade as part of her “Be the Cowboy” tour. After purchasing my ticket two months prior to the concert, I was excited but completely unaware of how this concert would go. I always saw Mitski as enigmatic, with some of her songs demonstrating the complexity of feelings and self-identity.

Even with the cold rain that night, people were lined up donned in smiles, some wearing straw or bedazzled cowboy hats to show spirit for Mitski’s recently released album, “Be The Cowboy.”

The opening act for her show was the New York electronic-pop duo Overcoats. I was not familiar with them, but their performance left me in absolute awe. They made the performance entertaining and intimate with the way they interact with each other, as they danced together as partners for songs like “The Fog” and “Leave the Light On.” I found their performance enjoyable because they seemed to be so comfortable with performing that they were able to genuinely have fun with it. The carefree aspect of this performance was impressive. I looked around to see if others were enjoying the set, to which I saw no one being absolutely still. If people were not outright jamming out by jumping up and down and letting their hands wave in the air to the sound of the music, they were feeling the sound by tapping their feet to the beat of the songs or bobbing their heads. The sound of Overcoats was infectious.

Overcoats played two songs from their second album they are currently working on. Both of the songs had a New Wave feel to them, which I thought was an interesting and enjoyable approach to the genre. By the end of their set, I was convinced that Overcoats was the perfect opening act for each show on the tour. Their performance made me feel like I was a part of a special experience.

Usually, it feels like time passes in an incredibly slow pace when the opening act leaves the stage and the main act follows. But it was almost like the waiting went by quickly in this one instance.

The lights dimmed and the screens had a visual of TV static. Then came the woman of the night, Mitski. She was dressed in a simple black dress, her arms held behind her back as she opened with “Remember My Name.” She was completely stoic, but the crowd wasn’t. All at once, I saw the power Mitski has. She was able to be unmoving and have an entire audience moving and singing along loudly. This added to my idea that Mitski is more than just a musician; she is a performer who conveys her vulnerability in her music in a unique way.

She then went on to perform “I Don’t Smoke” and “Washing Machine Heart.” I found “Washing Machine Heart” to be unlike anything I have ever seen at a concert. The song itself shows how someone can be so open for another person that they will take on that person’s baggage and internalize it.

Though her performance was enshrouded with entertaining mystery, Mitski was warm with the audience. She told the cheering audience, “I just wanted to let you know I can’t hear you because I have in-ear monitors on, but I really appreciate the love. Thank you.” Her concert was performance art, but she did not approach it in a pretentious way. She was open and receptive to the audience.

Another moving part of the concert was her performance of “Francis Forever,” a song I consider to be one of Mitski’s greatest. It is emotional, as its lyrics describe a person who feels lost and wants to be important to someone who they highly value. She frantically paced back and forth across the stage, singing, “I look up at the gaps of sunlight / I miss you more than anything.” The presentation of this song was riveting.

After several more songs, Mitski took another break to talk to the audience. She started by saying, “I don’t know if anyone is going to get this reference unless you watch a lot of television like I do …  but this venue feels like a post-apocalyptic place and I’m a strong inspired leader giving a speech.” I hadn’t even thought about it, but her saying this made me realize how amazing of a venue the Heaven stage of The Masquerade was for Mitski’s concert. Sure, it was larger than the Hell stage, but not large enough where it felt like there was a separation between the artist and the audience. It allowed for the perfect connection between the two.

Of course, “Nobody” was a pretty notable song, too. It’s arguably Mitski’s most danceable song, even with its lyrics based on a breakdown Mitski had after feeling the brunt of being alone in Malaysia without her family and friends. It’s also a song that addresses shifting in self-identity, as seen in the lyric, “I’ve been big and small and big small and big and small again / and still, nobody wants me.”

In her Verified Commentary with Genius, Mitski said, “I’ve done everything I could to my body and still nobody wants me. Just like what will it take? What will it take to be wanted? What do I need to do to be desirable? That’s where it came from.” The song is bound to make listeners sad, but its disco-infused sound allows people to dance out their sorrows, just as I did. Mitski makes it clear in her music that she understands what it is like to be lonely, adding to how she portrays her vulnerability. It makes the effect of her songs stronger.

“Come into the Water” was followed by “Drunk Walk Home,” a transition between a smooth, sweet song, to an abrasive, gritty one. This captured both sides of Mitski and her music. The duality was astounding.

The last song performed was the closing song of Puberty 2, “A Burning Hill.” It was purely acoustic; the band had left the stage, leaving Mitski alone. The entire venue went quiet for this part of the concert. It was intimate — the song is entrenched with longing melancholy to start over again. Once the song was over, she left the stage with a soft “thank you.”

Mitski and the band came back out for the encore, which was “Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart.” The crowd went back to its usual enthusiastic ways of jumping up and down to the music, dancing wildly, and singing along loudly. This was a great way to close a show that was different from the many I have attended.

Mitski’s concert was immersive, and there was no pause in intensity. Each song brought a different mix of emotions for me. Ever since I discovered her in high school, I always thought about how important her music was for me. In a time where I was desperately trying to figure out who I was and make sense of my identity, it was almost relieving to hear another woman’s approach to not really knowing who she was. I began to feel comfortable with myself; I learned that it was and is okay to not fully know who I am.

I thought about the personal growth I made between my first listen of “Your Best American Girl” and attending show where Mitski performed the same song. After the concert, I went home and felt complete, even for a brief moment in my complex and confusing existence.

Melina, 18, is a first-year student at Georgia State University.

Photos and video by Melina Skeete.

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