Mitski @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 27 Apr

The first night of Mitski's Edinburgh run is dazzling, as she invites us in with her precise, intuitive and alien movement

Live Review by Rho Chung | 30 Apr 2024

It's no surprise that Mitski's 90-minute show is both dazzlingly ambitious and pared back. Inventive lighting, set and movement design are Mitski's only back-up dancers. Her seven-piece band, led by music director Patrick Hyland, accompany Mitski with equal parts flair and discipline. It's the sort of come-to-Jesus moment that one hopes for but never dares to expect.

Mitski interacts with people, objects and spaces with tangible respect. From her air guitar, which she gingerly picks up and sets down, to the band and crew, Mitski makes sure we know how much joy this brings her. She talks to the crowd a few times – the crew had some technical difficulties earlier that day; her Scottish cousins are here. She even seems to acknowledge how her fans feel about her ("desperately limerent") in the wry and genuine cadence of a person who is paying closer attention than they usually let on.

With two black chairs as her only props, Mitski evokes the kind of theatre where the chairs are all you can afford. Nearly everything else is movement and light. As Mitski dances with and amongst the spotlights, it feels like looking at her through her own eyes. She invites us in with her precise, intuitive and alien movement.

Black and white photo of Mitski performing on stage in Edinburgh.
Image: Mitski @ Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 27 Apr by Roosa Päivänsalo

The choreography (made with Monica Mirabile) is central to the show. With the visible influence of movement forms like Fosse, ballet, animals and mechanical objects, Mitski translates her thoughts into physical language. Mitski's manic ragdoll physicality adapts to each song. During Love Me More, from 2022's Laurel Hell, Mitski extends a hand in the symbol for love, evoking the dances of Japanese pop idols at quarter speed. On the more upbeat tracks, Mitski allows her body to move intuitively, seemingly drawing inspiration from clowning, country music and modern dance. 

The takeaway is that Mitski contains multitudes beyond multitudes. The audience is carried along her neural pathways, passing Mitski as a rodeo clown, Mitski as a housecat, Mitski as a grandfather clock. But she doesn't merely become the most recognisable version of these things; she embodies them in her own vocabulary. The geometry of Mitski's body is a map of her mind, and she performs with equal parts seriousness and whimsy. It's a masterclass in honesty. Mitski breezes past inhibitions with practised conviction. I am rapt by Mitski's physical and emotional language. To be frank – I saw God, and she plays the acoustic air guitar.