Live review: Mitski, at Electric Circus

At only 26, Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski has already made quite an impression.

Four critically acclaimed albums and being named by Rolling Stone in 2015 as one of ’10 artists you need to know’ have all added to the growing stature of this New York-based artist.

With a childhood spent country hopping before settling in America as a teenager, it’s maybe no surprise that alienation and a sense of not belonging are common themes throughout her songs.

However, this is no doom-laden indie rock. The bittersweet lyrics are contained within a soundscape that flits between dreamy pop and punk noise, taking in bits of surf-guitar and folk-punk along the way. It’s as if the songs themselves reflect Mitski’s identity crisis of not fully belonging to any one defined group.

For the only Scottish date on her UK tour, Mitski arrived in Edinburgh on Friday to play to a sold-out Electric Circus, where there was a real sense of anticipation among the packed crowd.

Support for the night came from Personal Best, an upbeat power-pop quartet based in Bristol.

From the release of their debut Lovin’ EP in 2014, this band have been firing off songs packed full of heavy riffs and glorious hooks to the delight of their growing fan base.

The Circus was near full as the band opened with latest single Rollies, a rollicking ride that kicked things off in great style. The snappy and bouncy Love Letter was well received by the crowd and the slower paced new song, What You At, went down a treat.

The set ended on a high with Love Is On Your Side, followed by the melodic power burst of I Go Quiet, which led into the closing number, a rousing version of This Is What We Look Like.

It’s was job well done, with the audience now warmed up and ready for the main event.

To roars and raised hands from the packed crowd Mitski took the stage with a two-piece support. It was a sparse, stripped back approach which, from the opening Dan the Dancer brought power and emotion to the live performance.

Once More To See You emphasised the rawness on stage, the solitary drum beat meeting a brooding baseline before they were joined by Mitski’s stark vocals.

The crowd were transfixed and nodded and swayed in appreciation. The cheers increased in volume at the close of each song. When hit with the intense energy and pace of Townie the audience seemed unsure how to react to the rise in tempo.  The slowed down Thursday Girl followed and the crowd were back nodding and swaying, albeit it with more vigour.

It wasn’t all angst and anxiety either as Mitski won a huge cheer of approval when she stated: ‘I can make beauty, I don’t have to be beautiful’. In another time, Mitski would have been gracing the hallowed stage of CBGB’s with Patti Smith.

The finale, Fireworks, showcased the presence and power of Mitski as the song built up into a crescendo with the emotional rise of the chorus closing the night on a high for an audience reluctant to leave.

Friday night was been a triumph. When we live in such a judgemental society, music needs passionate, thoughtful and articulate voices like Mitski.

Words: Alan Hotchkiss

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