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With new and renewed songs alike, Mitski enchants in Chicago

Lexie Alley
/
Mitski; Facebook

Mitski fans lucky enough to snag a ticket for one of four sold-out shows at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre undoubtedly departed feeling elated with what was a tremendous musical and artistically theatrical performance from the adored chamber pop artist, powered by the reinvention of her own art.

With Mitski’s tour for The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We landing at the Richardsonian Romanesque style, 1889-born Auditorium Theatre, it wasn’t immediately clear how much that environment could heighten the performance. But it did.

Ornate and gilded, the beautiful theater was staged in a way that there was no bad seat in the house, which was key because Mitski’s performance is meant to be absorbed fully, not just listened to.

The Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, just before Mitski took the stage Thursday night.
Erin Wolf
The Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, just before Mitski took the stage Thursday night.

Endlessly, running, rolling, tumbling and sashaying across an elevated mini-circle “stage” of her own between her collection of musicians assembled on both sides, Mitski rarely stopped moving. She used two chairs as props and chased dancing, evasive spotlights — with both activities expressing deep emotions and underlining lyrics from and the spaces between her songs.

Dressed simply for movement in a white button-up shirt and loose, pleated trousers, Mitski gave off the air of classic cabaret, which added another dimension to the entire performance by suggesting this was not just a simple “show.” The on-point lighting artfully played with set dynamics and transitions, making it nearly impossible to tear your eyes away for even a moment.

Working through her newest material, Mitski still peppered her full set with plenty of older selections but reimagined much of it by altering instrumentation and presentation while maintaining its original poignantly lingering moodiness.

It was a refreshing surprise and an emotional shift for the artist, slyly demonstrating that the “Mitski” folks have come to know and love doesn’t intend to stick to a formula, even by her own design; she is the master conductor. Instruments like fiddle, pedal steel and accordion transformed well-loved songs and theatrical transitions while Mitski herself captured the audience with a coy-yet-direct approach.

By the encore-end of her performance’s journey (featuring two of her most beloved songs, “Nobody” and “Washing Machine Heart”) the crowd was in standing-ovation-mode, genuinely delighted and refreshed by experiencing their favorite star in a new light.


Set list

  • “Everyone”
  • “Buffalo Replaced”
  • “Working for the Knife”
  • “The Frost”
  • “The Deal”
  • “Valentine, Texas”
  • “I Bet on Losing Dogs”
  • “Thursday Girl (intro)”
  • “Geyser”
  • “I Love Me After You”
  • “First Love/Late Spring”
  • “Star”
  • “Heaven”
  • “I Don’t Like My Mind”
  • “Happy”
  • “My Love Mine All Mine”
  • “Last Words of a Shooting Star”
  • “Pink in the Night (Merengue version)”
  • “I’m Your Man”
  • “I Don't Smoke (Honky tonk version)”
  • “Bug Like an Angel”
  • “Love Me More”
  • “Fireworks”

Encore

  • “Nobody”
  • “Washing Machine Heart”
88Nine Music Director / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee