Music that captures raw, unadulterated emotion can often be hard to come by. Even more rare is when an artist can convey that same emotion nearly effortlessly during a live show. Last Thursday, Mitski did just that during her performance at High Noon Saloon.
Before Mitski took over, Half Waif set the tone for the show. Their intimate lyrics combined with brooding synths and electronic pulses began the night on a somber note that carried on throughout the entire evening. This stop in Madison marked not only Half Waif’s second visit to town within a few months, but also the finale of their trip with Mitski.
At the end of April, the woozy, electro-pop group is releasing an album titled Lavender. Offering them up as a special treat to the audience, Half Waif performed a handful of tracks from the forthcoming record. Their set ultimately concluded with a progression of mellow songs both from their new album and prior releases.
“It’s nice to end it with you all,” front woman Nandi Plunkett called out to the audience.
As Half Waif exited the stage, High Noon Saloon was once again filled with the murmurs of jittery fans anxiously awaiting Mitski’s set. When the star of the night set foot on stage, she did so nonchalantly, as if she were there to serve the audience completely devoid of self-benefit. Mitski stood center stage, guitar in hand, and was near-expressionless as she worked her way through tracks from Bury Me At Makeout Creek and Puberty 2. During renditions of songs like “Your Best American Girl” and “A Burning Hill,” Mitski remained stoic, and in doing so, the audience crumbled under the emotional weight her lyrics carried.
Rather than present herself with a bold stage presence, Mitski let her voice lead the night. When her energy flared up, there was purpose behind it. Her screams while singing only came out during the most heartbreaking portions of her songs. While she performed, the anguish that permeated throughout the audience was almost tangible.
Mostly soft-spoken throughout the night, Mitski chatted with the crowd between songs which offered a needed sense of levity.
“Some stylish person left their hat,” Mitski said while gesturing to a sombrero hanging on the wall. “People just leave stuff at bars, and they all seem to be cowboys,” she continued.
The intimacy of the venue added a powerful boost to the emotionality of the night. There are few artists whose pain translates so clearly into their music. Even fewer can capture that agony and effectively relay it during a live performance. Each song acted as a reminder of making it through difficult times for someone in the audiences. Gasps and sobs rung out as the initial chords of every track floated through the air.
I am often moved to tears by emotional records, but never before have I cried at an artist’s live performance. Mitski was the first musician to draw out those feelings.
Eventually, Mitski’s set came to a close. With a subtle bow, Mitski humbly said, “Thank you very much,” and exited the stage as many of the attendees were still wiping the tears from their now-reddened eyes.