Mitski began her Brooklyn ‘Be The Cowboy’ run (pics, review, video, setlist)
With the release of her excellent 2018 album Be The Cowboy, Mitski has officially completed another stage of her evolution from Brooklyn-via-Purchase College DIY mainstay to full-fledged cult idol. Proof of her breakthrough, which began in earnest with the release of 2014's Bury Me at Makeout Creek and really picked up steam with 2016's Puberty 2, is in her sold out North American tour, including four nights at NYC's Brooklyn Steel, her largest headlining shows here yet. I went to Saturday (12/1) night's Brooklyn Steel show, where signs of what a huge deal Mitski is now were all around me: the very lengthy line of attendees waiting for doors to open (the first person in line said she got there at 1:30 pm - doors opened at 7); the fevered pitch of the crowd singing along to every single song of Mitski's set; the screamed "I love you"s between songs, and one voice that cried you, "you got me through high school;" all the people sporting cowboy hats.
Mitski's live show went through a major evolution for the Be The Cowboy tour, as well. The various backing bands she's fronted over the years, often while playing a pink bass, have been scrapped entirely for a new five piece unit, positioned in a line in front of video screens projecting images of cities, rose petals, and more abstract shapes. In the center is Mitski herself, singing and moving in a choreographed dance she developed with Monica from performance art collective FlucT. At the start of the show, Mitski's movements were subtle, elegant, and tightly controlled, with visual cues from modern dance, but as the night progressed they became more wild and elemental. During "Dan The Dancer," she brought out a folding chair, reclined on it and bicycled her legs in the air, eliciting huge cheers, and before "I Will" she seemed to let go entirely, kicking her feet on the floor like a piece of machinery short-circuiting. "Happy" ended with jubilant leaps through the air from Mitski, but "Townie" may have gotten the biggest audience response of the night, with the crowd singing back, louder than ever, the lyrics, "I want a love that falls as fast as a body from the balcony" with a sea of raised arms.
For the final two songs before the encore, Mitski's band left the stage and she strapped on a guitar for "A Burning Hill" and "My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars." As ambitious and effective as her choreographed performance was, her raw, urgent solo take on "Crushed Little Stars" was perhaps the most moving part of the night.
"These Brooklyn shows are very special to me," Mitski said in one of her brief interludes between songs, "so I decided to ask the people who inspire me most to play." Former Cherry Glazerr keyboardist SASAMI started off the night with a rocking set where she showcased her fierce guitar chops, while Downtown Boys' political punk filled the venue with the urgency of its message, which has never been more timely. Check out pictures of all three bands in the gallery above, and Mitski's setlist, and videos from her set, below.
After wrapping up her Brooklyn Steel run, Mitski appears at the Ally Coalition Talent Show on Wednesday (12/5) with Lana Del Rey, Regina Spektor, Bleachers, and others. A final few tickets are still on sale, and proceeds to go benefit homeless LGBTQ youth centers.
Setlist: Mitski @ Brooklyn Steel, 12/1/2018
Remember My Name
I Don't Smoke
Washing Machine Heart
First Love / Late Spring
Me and My Husband
Dan the Dancer
Once More to See You
I Bet on Losing Dogs
I Want You
Your Best American Girl
Why Didn't You Stop Me?
Come into the Water
Drunk Walk Home
A Burning Hill
My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars
Two Slow Dancers
Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart