On Monday night, one of the most eagerly-anticipated shows of the season reached Birmingham, AL’s Iron City: Mitski, bringing Laurel Hell to one of the first audiences on her entirely sold-out theatre tour. Excitement around Mitski has reached a fever pitch — it wasn’t long ago that she had stepped away from the spotlight, and the narrative surrounding Laurel Hell suggested that she was ready to step away for good before the record pulled her back into making art. A new album and tour felt like a minor miracle in 2022, and the densely-packed crowd of 1200 lined up for hours before in the freezing rain to get a chance to get close to their favorite artist.
When she finally took the stage, the lights dimmed, and a glowing, eerie door was found to be at the center. Dancing her way onto the stage as if she was a marionette, Mitski and her band launched into “Love Me More”, one of the more euphoric singles on Laurel Hell. From there, the show was a flurry of activity. Already renowned for her theatrical performances and the injection of Butoh-influenced dance in her live show, the singer mesmerized the crowd with an impressive setlist that hit every record in her discography. Honestly, Laurel Hell was not the star of the show, and neither was Be the Cowboy, the album that launched her to a new level of fame. The loudest cheers came from the deep cuts off of Puberty 2 and Bury Me at Makeout Creek, with Mitski’s vocals often being drowned out by the screams of fans knowing every word. Songs like “Geyser” and “Your Best American Girl” carried significant weight, with pummeling guitars and drums bringing a clatter onstage that was nearly divine. The production behind her was designed for her to take center stage, but words were kept at a minimum throughout the set. She seemed focused on bringing her complex vision to life — until the very end where we could see her openly crying through the night’s closer, “Two Slow Dancers”. In that moment, she tearfully thanked the crowd — “I’m so glad that we get to do this again.” For an artist whose narrative and album has been built around the uncertain question of “Should I keep doing this?”, that remarkable moment of humanity left all of us feeling whole as we left the building that night. As I referenced in my review of Laurel Hell, we might not be sure where Mitski goes next, but we sure as hell should appreciate what we have in front of us.
Opening the night was the Japanese band CHAI, who we recently covered in Chicago on a headlining date. The four-piece completely dominated the stage and had the crowd in the palms of their hands as they played a short but energetic set. Their journey through genre was jaw-dropping — within the span of ten minutes, we were getting aggressive power-pop, drum-and-bass EDM, and shoegazey indie-rock, all with an incredible visual component, choreographed dance moves, and a level of enthusiasm that you hardly see from support acts. Keep your eyes on CHAI, because they’re a whole lot of fun. Check out our photos of Mitski and CHAI below: