Mitski: Ruby Lounge, Manchester

Personal Best are opening Ruby Lounge playing punked up pop with catchy melodies. They open with their recently released track ‘Rollies’ apathetically singing ‘I’m gonna lose my fucking mind’. The four piece have supported Mitski on her entire European Tour with a Blink 182 vibe feminised by the harmonies and vocals of Kate and El.

At her chaotic performance at Brudenell Social Club in October 2016 Mitski dismissed her band from stage after her opening song preferring to ‘play a good solo show than a bad show with the band’ due to lack of monitor foldback. With two strings short on the only guitar present she struggled to decipher which songs she could perform and remember how to play them. Ruby Lounge is once again packed with dedicated fans but the Leeds fiasco is forgotten.

Drums kick a simple beat as Mitski and her guitarist follow on stage to tune and mic check as she sings ‘check-1-2’ and picks up her bass.  The setlist is well structured blending from “Puberty 2″’s heavier ‘Dan the Dancer’ straight into mellow ‘Once More to See You’.

The stage at Ruby Lounge is not ideally placed for a full audience. A large pole obstructs a quarter of the audience’s view. Mitski solemnly acknowledges; ‘everyone behind that pole. Thanks so much to you for coming’. They commence “Bury Me At Makeout Creek” with the steady ‘Francis Forever’; Mitski singing her heart-wrenching lyrics ‘I don’t know what to do without you / I don’t know where to put my hands’. Overdriven solo guitar launches ‘I Don’t Smoke’ with an electronic drum track and alike to many of Mitski tracks simple instrumentation is chosen but with rock effects. Melancholic lyrics are threaded throughout including ‘If you need to be mean / be mean to me’ reflecting in her sombre face an aggression against her muse.

Drums anchor the tracks and electric guitar leads all riffs with various effects to sound like synthesizers or horns. Mitski’s natural vocal is incredible almost sounding as if a pitch correction pedal is being used as she flips from delicacy to shouting ‘Fuck you and your money’ in ‘Drunk Walk Home’.

She recounts to her adoring fans when she was a ‘friendless 16 year old going to karaoke everyday because I didn’t realise you could do this as a job’. She is clearly moved saying ‘you guys are reminding me why I do this’ as the room bellows along to the opening lines of her biggest hit ‘Your American Girl’ so that she need not sing herself.

She closes her enthralling set solo, playing her fully strung guitar with the tear jerker ‘A Burning Hill’. Her vocal is smooth and bounces around the scale to resolve as spoken word. Mitski’s most recent 2 albums both contain songs which counteract angelic innocence to violence. She emphasizes this in her guitar techniques and vocal tone. She angrily strums loops and shouts forming the entirety of ‘My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars’. She then delicately picks and softly whispers ‘Last Words of a Shooting Star’ settling the devotees down for the finale and rapturous applause lures her return for an encore and another intimate number.

Mitski’s very mixed repertoire ranges across many extremities. It is the unique facet that brings so many out to see and inhale the energy and beauty of her performance. Less is more with a relatively short set and the chaos of Brudenell is certainly well left behind.

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