Cool reserve and stinging incisiveness – Mitski returned to play in the UK this week

Her third LP 'Puberty 2' rightfully elevated the New York artist, and she's making the most of the bigger platform

What’s interesting about Mitski is that, in a lot of respects, she’s simultaneously become less intense onstage and more vital at the same time. Back around the time she broke through in the indie scene with her terrifically measured sophomore LP, ‘Bury Me at Make Out Creek’, she was making a point of screaming into her guitar at promotional performances of ‘Class of 2013’.

By the time she made an end-of-year-list-bothering statement last year with LP3, ‘Puberty 2’, she’d struck a crucial balance between cool reserve and stinging incisiveness; opener ‘Happy’, for instance, relaid a matter-of-fact vocal about a one-night stand over a beat that screamed discomfort.

Tonight, we so get much more of that same expert technique; ‘Dan the Dancer’s grim sing-song over rough, brass-flecked instrumental backing, breezy heartbreak from ‘A Burning Hill’ and a genuinely devastating requiem for the dying embers of the American dream in the form of ‘Your Best American Girl’.

It feels like a fitting way to come full circle, too, that she closes out the encore with the theatrics of ‘Class of 2013’: it’s a pleasing diversion from her last Manchester show in October, when she kept things tantalisingly short and wasn’t as generous with the older cuts. Such is the weight of Mitski’s authority on the plight of ethnic minority artists as well as her nuanced, experienced view of gender politics, we don’t necessarily need her to ooze conviction on stage – that she does is just a bonus. In the current songwriting climate, she’s a genuine one-off.

Mitski @ The Ruby Lounge, Manchester on 09 March 2017