Concert Review

Mitski- The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We Tour

By: Ellie Feaga

The fall of 2023 was a time of tremendous regrowth in Mitski’s life and career. For over a decade, Mitski has had a significant “cult following” for her emotionally raw ballads with a signature, genreless sound. Her defining 2018 album, “Be the Cowboy, gained more mainstream success in the alternative scene, with hit singles “Washing Machine Heart” and “Nobody.” But this past fall, her new lead single “My Love Mine All Mine” brought an entirely new audience to her music. Thus, seats to see her spring 2024 tour filled up extremely quickly with fans both new and old.

Mitski is joined by Belgian-Egyptian artist Tamino, whose unique style proved to be an excellent complement to hers. Tamino performed completely solo, accompanying each of his own songs with a guitar or mandolin. The quality of his voice can only be described as ethereal, and upon comparison, identical recorded and live. Among all of the opening acts I have seen blindly (without previously knowing the artist), this was likely the most powerful one I have ever experienced. Undoubtedly, I would like to see him perform as a headliner in the future.

Seeing Mitski was a tremendous gift, as she has long been one of my favorite artists, and my expectations were more than met. The show was intimate, yet vibrant, and she displayed perhaps the most joyful depiction of her discography I have yet to see from her.

Mitski is known for performing with unconventional solo choreography, yet having very minimal stage theatrics via props, costuming, and set changes. This show had a few simple, yet powerful set features that enhanced her performance without overshadowing her voice. The main feature included a hanging gallery of reflective shards, creating a mirrorball effect around what may be called the centerpiece of the show, “My Love Mine All Mine.” She also incorporated shadows and light throughout her choreography in a variety of ways. In the opening number, she approaches a curtain facing the audience until her shadow is three times her true height before dropping it abruptly. Later in the show, she has a beautiful mock-waltz with a beam of light. The presence and absence of light and shadow were a moving factor throughout the performance.

An unexpected, but generally welcome surprise was the country/western spin of some of her older songs. This made the show more cohesive, matching the more acoustic, dream-like folk undertones in her latest album, “The Land is Inhospitable and So Are We.” 

If anyone loves Mitski and country/western music, it’s me. Though there was one instance where the change in tone did not sit well with me. One of Mitski’s most lyrically gut-wrenching songs is “I Don’t Smoke,” which she chose to perform with an up-tempo country beat accompanied by a country line dance. In the moment, it felt to me as a loss of what could have been the height of her emotional performance during the show. If anyone has the authority to make a change to a piece of art, it is the brilliant artist herself. Still, I did miss the sound of the original work. I imagine this bold choice could be an incredibly divisive choice among fans. 

On the other hand, some of Mitski’s earlier music and production choices invoke feelings of discomfort in the listener to enhance her tone. Songs like “Class of 2013,” “Geyser,” and “I Want You” include unconventional sounds or melodies that tend to make a listener feel “on edge.” Perhaps, with the accompaniment of a live band rather than her normal production, this choice was made to create the same uncomfortable feeling to match the hard-hitting lyrics.

Ultimately, the core of the show is her lyrics and vocal performance. If all other aspects of the production were taken away, Mitski would still be able to captivate her audience with her voice itself. She is an incredibly composed live performer with the ease of someone singing to a close group of friends. Live vocal performances are an area in which many artists falter, but Mitski and Tamino alike are prime examples of voices that are meant to be heard in real time.