On a taut string of sold-out shows in support of her recent album, Be the Cowboy, Mitski played Richmond, Virginia’s spacious music venue, The National to an enthusiastic crowd. With an almost 20 song performance and smart, sexy choreography, Mitski put on a performance both luxurious and seductive.
One of the first few Mitski shows I attended was in a now-defunct gritty rock club in Minneapolis, MN shortly after Puberty 2 was released. Her set was powerful but minimal—she played bass, accompanied by a drummer and guitarist. There was no exquisite stage setup or choreography—it felt typical of going to see a band play a show. Now, her show promises a fuller, substantive experience. Evident after seeing Mitski on this current Be the Cowboy Tour, her prowess as a performer illustrates what a serious musician she is.
Her stage setup was luminous. Mitski was like an aerobic Horses era, Patti Smith. Circular, vibrant floor lights framed the stage, with her 4-piece band surrounding her upstage. Within the center of the stage, a white wooden table and chair sat. Mitski, clad in a white tee, black aerobic shorts, a thick black belt, and knee pads, utilized her stage and props to fruition.
She opened with “Goodbye, My Danish Sweetheart”, as she slowly stepped toward the table and chair. Transitioning into Bury Me at Makeout Creek’s “Francis Forever” and the new pulsating track, “Washing Machine Heart”, Mitski danced around the table, on the table, under the table. No dancing was off limits.
Her set was reminiscent of the Talking Heads’ 1984’s concert film Stop Making Sense, in which the stage and props are wholeheartedly functional. Every motion in her choreography seemed calculated and considered. She wildly danced in circles during the poppy chorus of “Townie” and slowly crawled under the table pushed sideways during her quieter, lyrically meditative songs.
During her performance of “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” Mitski laid on her back, slowly rotating her legs as though pedaling a bicycle upwards and upwards while the music swelled behind her—the crowd was enthralled. She has crossed the boundary from live show to live performance, which makes for a palpable, exciting experience.
In Mitski’s unique fashion, she closed the show with two quieter songs, “Two Slow Dancers” and “Carry Me Out”. The table and chair were moved offstage as she brought out her acoustic guitar, accompanied by her synth player. The rest of her band came out during “Carry Me Out,” ending the show in a cascade of emotion and depth. Mitski is the cowboy—an independent, loyal and seductively heroic figure. And this isn’t her first rodeo.
The current leg of Mitski’s Be the Cowboy tour is sold-out, though her late summer tour currently promises available tickets.