“I used to do an awful lot of karaoke before I realised you could do this as a job,” announces Mitski Miyawaki to a packed Manchester crowd. So far the decision to give up the casual karaoke bar sing alongs and start writing her own music has payed off. Mitski’s fourth album, ‘Puberty 2’, was named as one of the best albums of 2016 and apparently more than one member of her band shed a tear of joy when it was announced they would be touring with The Pixies.
Under the neon lights of Manchester’s Ruby Lounge Mitski showed that she is so much more than a casual karaoke singer. For this show Mitski is accompanied by a guitarist and drummer, with Mitski herself taking up position on bass. With the additional instrumentation the music takes on a much more visceral sound live. The hollow sound of the drum machine is backed up by the thump of a live drummer and the bass rattles the speaker system. But no matter how heavy the sound got Mitski’s vocals continued to carry the bittersweet sound of someone who has suffered a hundred heartbreaks.
The majority of the setlist came from 2016’s critically acclaimed ‘Puberty 2’, with the first track, ‘Dan the Dancer’, warming the crowd up nicely. The guitarist took the extra space on tracks such as ‘Once More to See You’ to add some of his own flourishes meaning every song sounded fresh, no matter how many times you’d listened to it on record.
Mitski didn’t neglect her early tracks either and blasted through a selection of songs from her breakthrough album ‘Bury Me at Makeout Creek’.
There were a few unlucky people who spent the majority of the set staring at the side of a pillar; handily positioned right in front of the stage. Mitski apologised to those who couldn’t see the full majesty of what was happening on stage (despite it not really being her fault). One member of the crowd in particular was especially happy to be acknowledged as he cheered and threw his beer into the air.
As soon as the bass-line of ‘Your Best American Girl’ kicked in the crowd began singing the lyrics back, drowning out Mitski who stepped back from the mic and let the audience take the lead. “This is why I do this,” says Mitski to the ever appreciative Manchester crowd and she seems genuinely grateful for the response her music.
It is rare to see a musician that seems quite so thankful. It is clear that Mitski is enjoying every second of being an indie rock sensation yet she still seems shocked by the fact that this is her job. It is this humble attitude that makes her so endearing and keeps her music so raw and exciting.
The live set proved just how far Mitski’s musings on loss and identity have reached. The tracks on ‘Puberty 2’ tap into many universal sentiments such as the awkwardness of life in your mid 20s, as you continue to attempt to discover who you are. In particular the song ‘Happy’, about the fleeting joy of a one night stand, seemed to pull at the heartstrings of the Mancunian crowd.
For the final few tracks, Mitski played alone, beginning with the more intimate song, ‘A Burning Hill’ before cutting into the bristling punk of ‘My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars’.
After briefly stepping off stage Mitski came back for a mini encore which saw the piano ballad, ‘Class of 2013’ transformed into a song of pure pent up angst. Mitski held her guitar aloft, screaming into the strings as the open chord reverberated around the room. The final lyrics sounded out: “Mum, am I still young? Can I dream for a few months more?” The crowd, who were hanging on every word, begged for one more song, but one more still wouldn’t have been enough.