Mitski + Overcoats @ Club Soda – 21st October 2018

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Mitski Montreal

Remember the Wilson Phillips cameo at the end of the movie Bridesmaids? That’s kinda what it looks like on stage upon arrival at Club Soda midway through Overcoats’ opening set. The synth-pop duo from NYC are having fun and clearly enjoying being onstage, throwing out choreographed 80s dance moves throughout their set. By way of introducing last song Leave The Light On, they try their hand at perfectly coordinating the question “are you ready to dance?!” to the audience with the aid of a mouthed countdown to each other. It kinda fails, but everyone enjoyed it anyway.

Overcoats band Montreal

So much has changed for Mitski since the last time I saw her, back in July 2016. I speculated how “last November [2015], she sold out Casa Del Popolo, and tonight it’s Bar Le Ritz; who knows how big she can go at this point!” Well, we’re starting to get an idea. This show was initially booked for l’Astral, but sold out double-quick, and was subsequently upgraded to Club Soda. This sold out quickly too, almost a month before the show! Who knows, it could have been upgraded again if it weren’t for Theatre Corona, MTelus, Place Bell and Bell Centre already being booked!!! I suppose we’ll see next time she tours! Listening to her new record Be The Cowboy, it’s really not hard to see why her shows are growing exponentially. It feels like a reinvention. Gone is the lo-fi garage scuzz of the early records, replaced by a much slicker, polished production, and an infinitely more evolved sound, even compared to the breakthrough Puberty 2 record from 2016 which hinted at this development. And it’s her best record yet, without question.

Mitski + Overcoats @ Club Soda

Now touring as a 5-piece, it’s evident right from the first song that the live show has changed massively too. Opening with Remember My Name, Mitski no longer wields a guitar for the duration of the set, and without those shackles, really embraces the role of being a frontwoman. She takes it easy through the first few songs, leaving the mic in its stand throughout I Don’t Smoke and Washing Machine Heart, but still manages to cut some surreal robot dance poses in time to the spooky Halloween keys in the case of the latter. It’s engaging already, and those seated on the balcony are on their feet, drawn into the spectacle right out of the gates.

Mitski Club Soda

A massive singalong accompanies First Love / Late Spring right off the bat, with yellow spotlights twirling around the stage as Mitski points out her toes at the sky ballerina-style, before she ditches the mic stand altogether on Francis Forever, pacing the stage from side to side for the duration of the song, and eliciting another resonant singalong, one so loud you can actually hear voices straining! She dips her shoulders doo-wop style on Me And My Husband, before unfolding a chair centre-stage and singing seated for Dan the Dancer and Once More to See You.

Mitski Montreal

After a brief chat with the crowd, including the usual attempts at French that we have come to expect from touring artists here, she gratefully exclaims “thank you so much for coming tonight!” And she sounds 100% genuine too, truly taken aback by the size of the crowd. A Pearl, one of the standouts from the new record, is every bit as epic live. Only Mitski can make a song sound epic in 2 ½ minutes! After a few more hypnotic robot dance moves on Thursday Girl, I Will sees he go into a full-on interpretive dance, almost egged on by the raucous clapalong provided by the crowd and the driving bass line. Townie is a throwback to the garage-rock days, before the unashamed pop of Nobody sets off sections of the floor bouncing. Mitski trails off at the end to let the crowd sing the last few shouts of “Nobody!”, which sounds truly anthemic. I Bet On Losing Dogs and I Want You sound absolutely amazing too.

Mitski Montreal setlist

Afterwards, someone in the crowd yells “I LOVE YOU!” Mitski replies simply, “Thanks.” Someone else shouts “I LIKE YOUR HAIR!” Again, Mitski replies “Thanks,” before following that up with “sorry, I’m not good at banter!” After a quick laugh around the room, the massive Your Best American Girl arrives, the breakthrough song from Puberty 2, and sounds massive with a 5-piece band now behind it. Mitski prowls the stage like Karen O throughout. Why Didn’t You Stop Me? is another reminder of what is possible at a Mitski show that was not possible in 2016, as is the huge Happy, with its thunderous machine gun electro beats. Last time around, this was one of the songs I was extremely disappointed not to hear in the set, but seeing it finally played live, it’s abundantly clear why it was not possible for a 2-piece in Bar Le Ritz.

mitski live photos

Drunk Walk Home sees another trademark Mitski interpretative dance thrown in, before she heads to the side of the stage to grab an acoustic guitar for set closer A Burning Hill. The rest of the band leaves, and Mitski serenades us alone, delicate, fragile. It’s another throwback to the old times, and a powerful way to end the main set. Bowing, she leaves the stage too.

Mitski Montreal photos

After a brief pause, Mitski and her keyboard player return for the tender Two Slow Dancers, the stunning closer from the Be The Cowboy record, before the rest of the band rejoins to close out the encore with Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart. It’s been a remarkable 75 minutes. Last time at Bar Le Ritz, a headline set of only 40 minutes felt like a missed opportunity; tonight, it most certainly didn’t. A simply stellar show.

See you at the Bell Centre next time?

Mitski Montreal concert

Setlist

1. Remember My Name
2. I Don’t Smoke
3. Washing Machine Heart
4. First Love / Late Spring
5. Francis Forever
6. Me and My Husband
7. Dan the Dancer
8. Once More to See You
9. A Pearl
10. Thursday Girl
11. I Will
12. Townie
13. Nobody
14. I Bet on Losing Dogs
15. I Want You
16. Your Best American Girl
17. Why Didn’t You Stop Me?
18. Geyser
19. Happy
20. Come into the Water
21. Drunk Walk Home
22. A Burning Hill

Encore

23. Two Slow Dancers
24. Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Jean-Michel Lacombe

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