By Hannah Morrison
Mitski, a Japanese-American singer-songwriter with an impressive musical track record, took Denver's Bluebird Theater by storm last night. She's a musician I've long admired and have been longing to see perform for well over a year. After seeing several other incredible female solo artists, including Angel Olsen and Courtney Barnett, play live in the past year; my expectations for last night's gig were high and yet were more than met.
The show hit the ground running with a performance by Nandi Rose Plunkett, who records under the name Half Waif. She took the stage alone, and immediately established a gorgeous, undulating landscape of sound for the audience to explore. Blending her own clear voice with synths and drum machine beats, Plunkett played a set of dynamically arresting anthems. Her second song was the only one I recognized—the track "Frost Burn," which has been in recent rotation on 1190—but her set only continued to rise from there. It's rare that an opening act delivers such a compelling performance, but Half Waif was one of the best I've seen. She commanded the audience's attention purely with raw talent and personality, and she clearly isn't an artist to be missed. Before the show, I hadn't actively listened to her music, but rest assured—her latest release form/a is a true gem. Check it out on Spotify or Bandcamp if you haven't already, it definitely deserves to be on your radar!
After a great start to the night from Half Waif, it was time for Mitski to take the stage. While the audience waited, the anticipation was palpable. When she walked out, it was cathartic.
Backed by a drummer and guitarist, she played through a varied set of songs mostly drawn from her two most recent albums, Puberty 2 and Bury Me at Makeout Creek. Highlights included "Townie," 'Your Best American Girl," and "I Bet on Losing Dogs." Her vocals showed astounding range as she effortlessly switched from her sweetly quiet verses to her echoingly intense choruses. Parts of the set even verged on punk, as Mitski released all the emotion that holds such a vital place in her songs. With minimal stage production, Mitski's own energy was given room to shine and carried the show perfectly. She created an incredibly comfortable and empowering space for her audience, even praising those who came to the show alone or were nervous to come because of a dislike for crowds. She took the time to genuinely connect, and carried herself with calm composure—even when one audience member rudely called for her to “tell a joke.” She closed out her main set by playing several songs on her own, showcasing her immense talent in its purest form. After “Last Words of a Shooting Star,” she left the stage only to return with her full band for a single-song encore. “This is What We Look Like,” originally by the band Personal Best, was the only cover she performed all evening, and it was just as wonderfully executed as all of her originals.
I’m always blown away by the powerful performances from my favorite female musicians, and Mitski was no exception. Leaving her show, I walked away feeling simultaneously calm, awestruck, and inspired.