Mitski Montreal

Photos by Stephan Boissoneault

Mitski left a piece of her heart in Montreal

The Japanese-American indie synth-pop sensation has shaken the adolescent world to its core.

As the rain gently fell on St-Denis street on Saturday night, a lineup of eager lovers, friends and complete strangers waited in anticipation for passage into one of the biggest shows of the year: Mitski, the Japanese-American indie synth-pop sensation who has shaken the adolescent world to its core with her albums like Puberty 2, bury me at makeout creek, Be the Cowboy and the more recent Laurel Hell

This line, which stretched three blocks, around the entirety of the Théâtre St-Denis, showed the dedication and adoration for an artist that has been praised by the likes of Iggy Pop. Some knew what they were in store for, and others, like this reviewer, had no idea. 

As we finally made our way into the venue, confusion ran rampant. People crowded ushers asking where they were sitting even though this show was in fact, general admission. Yes, general admission in a building that holds 2,300 people at a sold-out show. As you can guess, it was a frenzy, and words like “Désolée” and “Pardon,” were uttered countless times.

The original show was scheduled in the Eglise St-Jean Baptiste, a venue choice many were excited about due to the stained glass/holy atmosphere, that has been witness to acts like the Cocteau Twins and Nick Cave. Many were aware of the first come first serve general admission and made a beeline to the floor entrance, but much to their chagrin, it was filled—probably minutes after the doors opened. At times it felt like parts of the crowd were being herded, like lambs to the slaughter, but in this case, it was to the merch table and bar. 

As this hysteria ensued, leaving many venue workers to just shake their heads, a young indie R&B group took to the stage. They were called Michelle, a young and fiery indie Rnb six-piece from New York that commanded the theatre during their set. The four women fronting the band, each had their own aesthetic style; one in a lounge dress, two looking like they were in a ‘90s hip hop video, and one in angsty grunge wear, and had synchronized dance moves. They each had gorgeous voices and when harmonizing were very reminiscent at times to a group like Destiny’s Child. And the sheer glee on each band member’s faces, including the two guys helming the synth and electro percussion, was highly entertaining. An amazing opener that could go far with their energy. 

A bit after Michelle’s set, the stage crew pulled off a black curtain, revealing a solo white door in the middle of the stage, a mic and stand in front. Soon after, a quiet voice appeared over the venue speakers. 

“Hello everyone, this is Mitski. Please remember to keep your mask on for the entire show so we can continue touring. We can still see you singing the words. Thank you.”

The venue, especially the floor crowd, let out a thundering cheer as she said the words “this is Mitski.” The lights finally dimmed and Mitski stepped out of the door, donning an alabaster dress, knee pads and serious smile, and launched into the disco synth number “Love Me More.” 

Mitski performed around 20 songs, new and old, and it seemed like each song had its own distinct dance; pirouettes, air punches, spins and frantic twirls. It was a marvel to watch. 

At times it seemed like her limbs were no longer attached to her body and her dancing became a sort of random, full-body release — kind of like a joyful exorcism. All of her songs are at their heart about feeling trapped, whether it be in a relationship, within societal expectations, a physical sense or the existential dread one can feel from sheer stardom. One has to remember that after Be the Cowboy came out, Mitski went on an indefinite hiatus and thought about quitting entirely. So in order to relive those feelings night after night, you need to expel those pure emotions out into the world and Mitski does it not only with her powerful voice but also with dancing. So with all of her flailing, sliding and diving on stage, the knee pads make sense. 

It also makes sense as to why the stage was essentially empty and her band was closer to the back — Mitski needs her space to run around, truly perform and be in her own zone.

It was during “Your Best American Girl” — probably one of her most popular songs and heaviest guitar tracks — that the energy in the building was electric and palpable. Fans chanted every verse and chorus and you were transfixed in those moments. Many of the songs had hundreds singing along, including during “Washing Machine Heart,” when Mitski challenged the crowd to sing the verses alone. The super fans pulled it off with ease, and many in the building were indeed super fans. 

She finished the set with the grungey trauma song “A Pearl,” leaving the stage only to return 30 seconds later for the encore — another synth-led ballad called “Two Slow Dancers.”

And suddenly it was over. She bowed, sweat running down her face, and left, leaving a piece of her heart on the stage. ■

For more on Mitski, please visit her website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.