Mitski delivers intimate, vulnerable performance at Wiltern

Mitski Wiltern 2018 mainbar

It’s no surprise that Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski has sold out every show on her current U.S. tour — which made a stop Wednesday night at The Wiltern.

Once the New York-based electronic pop duo Overcoats took the stage, they immediately captured your attention. The duo managed to showcase their poetic, entrancing melodies, leaning heavily on songs from their 2017 debut Young. They have a more pop-leaning Lucius sound to them with their wonderful harmonies. It was a nice contrast to see them open for Japanese-American musician Mitski, who released her latest album Be the Cowboy in August.

Seeing Mitski headline a sold-out show at The Wiltern, you have to marvel at how far she’s come. But she deeply appreciates her fans, and she made a point of showing it.

Even in a venue as cavernous as The Wiltern, Mitski made the event feel small and intimate. Wearing a simple black dress on a bare stage, she sang slower songs like “A Pearl,” and the poppier, “Washing Machine Heart,” with the same calm, confident assurance. She accompanied her cutting lyrics with simple dance movements, like a precise ballet dancer just beginning to warm up. The crowd went wild for “Me and My Husband,” and older ones like “Francs Forever,” from her 2014 album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek.

Halfway through the performance, she took a moment to appreciate the grandness of the Wiltern. “Look around. Someone made this,” she reminded us. She profoundly thanked everyone for being there, explaining that this is what she lives for. It was one of the more heartfelt moments I had witnessed from a musician onstage.

Throughout her set, she primarily focused on her vocals and dancing. For “Geyser,” she sat on a chair in the middle of the stage, but took control of the room, demonstrating an eerily commanding presence. Her emphasis on dance was unexpected, but it worked– her careful movements looked like how her music is meant to make you feel. There were times when she was crawling across the stage, with two monitors behind her displaying a vast desert, that it almost felt more like an interpretive dance performance than a rock show.

Towards the end of her set, she had a few surprises in store. She sang “Your Best American Girl,” from Puberty 2, and then brought out her guitar only to play “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars.” For her final song of the night, she went out with a Bandcamp oldie, “Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart.”

Most of the lyrics on Be the Cowboy are in second person, addressing not a human love interest, but rather, her love of music. This passion for her fans, and for her craft, showed through in her performance.

Words by Julia Edelman
Photos by Betsy Martinez