Mitski @ Bar Le Ritz PDB – 23rd July 2016

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After 4 albums, things are finally happening for NYC-based Mitski. Propped up by some serious airplay on Alternative radio and Pitchfork-endorsed new album “Puberty 2” (awarded a Best New Music 8.5 rating last month), Mitski has spent the last 5 weeks or so on a tour from East Coast to West Coast and back again, with almost every night totally sold out. Indeed, Montreal joined that list during the course of the evening, with the last few tickets eagerly snapped up at the door, and a few procrastinators left outside ticketless. Last November, she sold out Casa Del Popolo, and tonight it’s Bar Le Ritz; who knows how big she can go at this point!

She takes to the stage at 9:35pm, and her angelic choral vocal blends seamlessly into punky opener Townie, from 2014’s Bury Me At Makeout Creek. The much more mellow First Love – Late Spring is up next, and then I Want You, from 2013’s Retired From Sad, New Career In Business sophomore record, picks things up again with its punky, disjointed riff intro that reminds one of Brainstew by Green Day. She seems genuinely grateful for the turnout, as she takes the time to address the audience with the words “thank you all so much for coming, my name is Mitski.” A raucous Thursday Girl, from the current Puberty 2 record, follows, and is souped up immeasurably from its recorded version thanks to the touring drummer that Mitski is accompanied by onstage, with thumping drums and a crashing hi-hat complementing Mitski’s thrashing guitar and vocals. A great song rendered even greater in the live setting, without question.

She introduces the next song by saying “I wrote all the songs tonight, but this one, I didn’t write…”, before launching into a cover of recent Calvin Harris tune “How Deep Is Your Love?” An odd choice, but it works, stripped down to a guitar-based song, thoroughly Mitski-fied compared to the original. Once More To See You begins with just Mitski and a melancholy guitar, before being joined by the drums partway through, before leading into Francis Forever and then My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars, also souped up with drums compared to on record, and it’s “KILL ME, JERUSALEM!” chorus sounding even more ferocious.

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After completing I Don’t Smoke, Mitski again says “Thank you for being here, I didn’t expect so many people!” Not sure how surprised she really is, since almost every show of hers for the past 5 weeks has been sold out. Maybe she’s had some rough experiences in the past in Montreal in particular, in which case, the surprise at tonight’s crowd must be genuine! Current single Your Best American Girl is next, with a large singalong accompaniment from the audience, and then I Will and Drunk Walk Home, complete with its military drumming, follow on.

At this point, the drummer departs the stage, and Mitski says “these next 2 songs are my encore songs, so let’s assume we went through the motions…” (of her leaving the stage, us cheering, etc.), to which half the audience laughs, and the other half checks their watches. Already?? It’s about 10:10, and she’s only been playing 35 minutes. Sure enough, after acoustic numbers A Burning Hill and Last Words of A Shooting Star, Mitski leaves the stage for good at 10:15pm, after only a 40-minute headlining set. Nobody else seems disappointed, perhaps they knew exactly what to expect, but for an artist with 4 full-length albums, surely 40 minutes is short-changing the audience a little? This show did have an early curfew of 11pm, but that’s still 45 minutes away. Looking at set lists from other shows on the tour, it seems that her shows are always this length, give or take a song or two, so 40 minutes seems standard fare. Still, many standout tracks are not given an airing tonight, for example, Happy and I Bet On Losing Dogs from Puberty 2, or indeed anything from 2012 debut Lush, so certainly, it’s not down to a lack of available material either. It’s a real shame considering how well things were going, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that for what was shaping up to be a classic set, it ended up feeling more like a missed opportunity.

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Set List
Townie
First Love – Late Spring
I Want You
Thursday Girl
How Deep Is Your Love (Calvin Harris & Disciples cover)
Once More to See You
Francis Forever
My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars
I Don’t Smoke
Your Best American Girl
I Will
Drunk Walk Home
A Burning Hill
Last Words of A Shooting Star

Review and photos – Simon Williams

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