After almost three years of being on hiatus, Japanese American singer-songwriter Mitski is back. Mitski, known for her vulnerable lyrics and compelling melodies, announced in 2019 that she would be taking an indefinite break. After years of touring, she felt drowned by the constant need to produce music and found it difficult to continue to write heartfelt music. She also felt overwhelmed by the devotion of fans who, at times, did not recognize that she was just as much of a person as they were. In one of the concerts before her break, a fan screamed, “I love you!” and she replied, “You don’t even know me.” After announcing her break, Mitski deleted all of her social media accounts. However, in the fall of 2021, verified accounts under the username “@mitskileaks” popped up on social media sites. On October 4th, Mitski’s management announced the upcoming release of a new single. The single, titled “Working for the Knife,” was followed by Laurel Hell, an album centered around Mitski’s complicated relationship with fame. Soon after, her 2022 tour was announced and tickets sold out quickly.
On March 4th, fans could be seen lined up outside the Fox Theater in Downtown Oakland as early as 7:30 am. The line grew, looping around the block until the doors of the Fox opened at 7 pm. The theater filled up quickly as fans without pre-assigned seats rushed inside to find a good place to stand. The opening act, a Japanese band named CHAI, came out with their bubbly energy and catchy songs at 8 pm. CHAI’s set brought the house down, and they left the stage to roaring applause. Jazz filled the theater as fans waited in anticipation for Mitski to appear.
At around 9:15, Mitski came out, wearing a simple, flowy white dress, cinched at the waist with a belt. Face stoic, she slowly walked to the center of the stage as the instrumentals of “Love Me More,” an upbeat, almost frenetic song about being consumed by love in order to drown out pain, played. During an instrumental break in the song, she bowed to the audience, which was one of the only interactions with the audience the entire night. Mitski rarely addressed the audience directly throughout the concert and seemingly looked into the distance. Considering her history with fame, it makes sense that Mitski treated her concert as a piece of performance art, which added to the mesmerizing quality of the concert. Though it may seem like Mitski did not necessarily perceive the audience, she requested in a deleted tweet that her fans limit filming during her concerts, saying, “I love shows for the feeling of connection, of sharing a dream, and remembering that we have a brief miraculous moment of being alive at the same time, before we part ways.” She wanted to “share a moment” with her fans, instead of feeling like she was being consumed for content. And the concert did feel like sharing a moment, both with Mitski and with the fans in the crowd. As Mitski sang a variety of songs from her discography, such as the popular “Nobody” and the heart-wrenching “I Will,” fans sang along and screamed as she danced across the stage, basking in the shared love of her music. They clapped as she banged her head and flailed her arms during “Drunk Walk Home” and cried as she lay on the ground, reaching up to the sky during “Your Best American Girl.” She captivated the crowd with her movements: the subtle hand motions, the bigger, full-body dancing, the shifts in her expression, and with her voice: familiar to most, and even more beautiful, clear, raw, and electric as on her recorded tracks. She sang her encore, “Two Slow Dancers,” a slow, haunting ballad about yearning for love as it was when people were young, standing still in front of the microphone, and it washed over the crowd softly singing along, leaving everyone just a little bit breathless and teary and very much in love with the moment. And as the instrumentals slowly faded out, she bowed again, picked up the flowers people had thrown on stage, and thanked the crowd, finishing with “Thank you, I love you.” The lights turned on, and the concert was over. The crowd slowly dispersed, each person carrying out with them a shared moment and an unforgettable memory. Though the world may be on the brink of collapse from burning hills and the weight of losing dogs, Mitski’s familiar voice and energy will forever echo throughout the halls of the Fox Theater and in the hearts of anyone lucky enough to see her perform.