There is a sense of relief watching Mitski perform on the Park Stage at Glastonbury, where she’s making her festival debut after coming extremely close to giving up on music altogether in 2018. The singer had had enough: of the limelight, the expectations, the person-to-product pipeline that feels so horribly inescapable as a musician working today who is intensely loved in any way.
Mitski is so loved, her shows having been known to end in medical emergencies for some fans who simply feel and give too much as their favourite artist sings them everything they’ve always been desperate to hear.
At Glastonbury it feels surprisingly intimate – calm, in the sense of simply not being worrying, focused, grateful. Screams don’t drown out Mitski’s crystalline vocals nor her thundering band (if there was any doubt she’d lost her rockstar energy with dancier new album ‘Laurel Hell’, this show reminds us where she came from) but there’s no lack of passion in the air.
The musician is both relaxed and galvanised, her usual ritualistic choreography (conceived alongside LA-based choreographer Jas Lin) is given space to thrill fans old and new – sexuality and violence reign as the microphone becomes a weapon on ‘Working for the Knife’, limbs furiously flail for ‘Washing Machine Heart’.
In just an hour, there is somehow time to remember all the different faces of Mitski that have got her to this crucial Glastonbury set, without rushing or worrying about the consequences. “My name is Mitski, what’s your name?” the singer sweetly asks seven songs in.
We see the grungy origins with the inimitable bass-led ‘I Don’t Smoke’ (Mitski’s band have never sounded better), her timeless battle cry in ‘Your Best American Girl’ and breathtaking vocal range in ‘Drunk Walk Home’, and even the way her more recent synth-heavy material holds on tight to those earthy roots.
Disco single ‘The Only Heartbreaker’ is euphoric, an enormous sing- and dance-along where everyone is on the same page, while ‘Should’ve Been Me’, usually bittersweet but playful, is given a sharper edge too. It becomes the highlight as the crowd performs Mitski’s dance moves back to her, knocking on a door in the air, waiting for an opening.
We’re almost in symbiosis. Mitski sees her fans, adoring but patient, curious, thankful to be with her again. And we see her: an artist stronger than ever, slowly learning to let us in again.
‘Love Me More’
‘Working For The Knife’
‘I Don’t Smoke’
‘Washing Machine Heart’
‘First Love / Late Spring’
‘Me And My Husband’
‘Drunk Walk Home’
‘Should’ve Been Me’
‘Your Best American Girl’
‘The Only Heartbreaker’
Check back at NME here throughout the weekend for the latest news, reviews, interviews, photos and more from Glastonbury 2022.