Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Review: Mitski reinvents the album tour

The indie star breathes new life into older songs, even if it risks alienating her fans
Mitski’s Bandcamp

The last thing you might expect to hear from Mitski, one of the foremost voices in depressing indie music, is “It gets better.” But that’s exactly what she told her audience at the third of four sold-out shows at the MGM Music Hall in Boston on Feb. 17. At 33 years old and 12 years into her music career, Mitski’s performance spotlighted a sense of clarity and sentimentality, even more than the sadness that initially brought her fame.

Boston is the sixth location of Mitski’s album tour for “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We,” but this is not the first time she has performed this album live. Back in Sept. 2023 when the album was first released, she played a series of low-key acoustic sets in North America, Europe and Asia. Between the previous acoustic shows and the deliberate choice of smaller venues for this tour, Mitski’s focus is on delivering as intimate of a concert experience as an artist with billions of streams on Spotify can provide.

The emphasis on being down to earth is a product of both the tender, reflective nature of Mitski’s latest album and her public persona. Even when speaking to an audience of thousands, she dedicates her vocal breaks between songs to mundane topics, such as her trip to the animal shelter that day and a shoutout to a local paper in Allston who wrote her first concert review.

The artist manages to simultaneously present herself as a distant, ethereal figure trapped on stage and an ordinary woman shocked that her music has reached so many people. Other than two songs where shards, a symbol of this album, descend from the ceiling and surround her, the theatrics are kept to a minimum. Her stage outfit consists of a plain white shirt and black dress pants, allowing her music and choreography to speak for itself.

The emotional connection between Mitski and her music may be obvious enough from her deeply personal lyrics, but her stage presence truly brings it to life. Compared to the high energy most people are more familiar with at other concerts, seeing Mitski live was a change of pace that felt more like watching a dancer command the stage than a rockstar command the crowd. Even as someone who usually screams along to the lyrics at my favorite artists’ shows, I found myself sitting in near-complete silence and watching her fluidly move around a small, elevated circle on the stage.

If there was any part of Mitski’s performance that caught me by surprise, it was the rearrangements of songs from previous albums to better suit the folksier sound of “The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We.” Although it was jarring to hear downers like “I Don’t Smoke” as cheerful folk tunes, it was the first time I’ve ever seen an artist interpret their older music in the style of the album they’re on tour for.

From the orchestral introduction of opener “Everyone” to a part of the live “Pink in the Night” arrangement that made me turn to my friend and ask — “Are those bongos?” — the upbeat reimagining of these songs struck me as a rebellion against the melancholy that Mitski’s fans might expect of her. The resistance to her fame can be seen throughout this tour’s setlist. Particularly of note is her decision to save “Nobody” and “Washing Machine Heart,” two of the songs that catapulted her to online virality, for the encore. While as a devoted fan of hers I appreciated hearing some of my lesser-known favorites live, it’s an unusual choice for an artist to delay their most popular songs until the very end of the show.

Every decision that Mitski has made for this album tour, whether it be the choice of smaller theaters or the new interpretations of deeper cuts from her discography, represents her autonomy in an era of parasocial fans trying to define her identity. Mitski shares an intimate bond with her listeners through her music, but she’s here on stage to remind us that she’s her own person.

Leyna Summers can be reached at [email protected].

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