Mitski keeps no secrets.
At least that's what you would be led to believe had you listened to Puberty 2, her much-hyped (and deservedly so) fourth record, replete with personal histories of heartbreak, despair, fear and longing. Though restrained, it’s impossible to miss the self-consciously confessional edge within her songwriting, then to become immersed in her inner turmoil. Puberty 2, much like the rest of her discography, is Mitski bleeding for her public — or rather, letting her public into the private spaces where she bleeds.
Larimer Lounge, however, was not one of those spaces. For all the gut-wrenching sincerity and evocative lyricism of her most recent album (and entire career), Mitski seemed disengaged and distant from her sold-out crowd. She leaned heavily on older material, opening with a halfway rousing rendition of “Townie” from 2014’s Bury Me at Makeout Creek.
“My name’s Mitski,” she said, two songs into her set. “Thank you for being here.”
That would remain the extent of the audience-performer connection for the better part of the set. It was not for lack of trying on the crowd’s part. An uneven version of “Thursday Girl” prompted several people to shout their devotion in her direction, namely, “I love you!”
“You’re all talking at once and I have earplugs in, so this is not working,” she replied. “I appreciate it, thank you, but I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
The interaction felt like a bad metaphor. Mitski was an image of perfect stoicism while performing soul-bearing songs, the would-be intimacy deflated by her uncomfortable distance.
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The audience kept trying to reach her regardless. “Your Best American Girl” – the first single from Puberty 2 and an instant shoo-in for every best-of list come December – incited loud cheers and a sing-along. Fans also devoured her anxiety-ridden cover of Calvin Harris’s “How Deep Is Your Love,” a high point in which she reimagined the Top 40 club banger as a tortured lamentation.
But for all the crowd’s enthusiasm, Mitski still struggled to meet her fans halfway. Armed only with her guitar and alone on stage for the final third of the show, she treaded softly through “A Burning Hill” and set closer “Last Words of a Shooting Star.” Her undeniable singing talent was on full display for the latter, enough to inspire part of the audience to request an encore. She obliged.
“I don’t usually do encores because we all already came,” she joked upon returning to the stage. “So it’s like, no one wants to keep going after, but if you promise to keep it up for this last song…”
The moment of banter was immediate and intimate compared to the rest of her set, and a gorgeously understated version of “I Bet on Losing Dogs” followed. Something about it, however, felt like too little too late, seeing as how we’d spent the previous fifty minutes all but locked out of the interior worlds she has spent her career laying bare. As exciting as last-minute saves can be, this one just seemed tardy.