SAN FRANCISCO — When Mitski recorded her 2018 LP, Be The Cowboy, she often envisioned someone singing alone onstage under a single spotlight. It’s what inspired the album’s theatrical exploration of sounds. Now, the New York musician has brought that effect to life for her completely sold-out tour, which stopped at The Warfield Saturday.
Mitski positioned herself center-stage, isolated from her band, when she opened with “Remember My Name.” off the new record. As the singer-songwriter sang about immortality and legacy, she stood with her hands behind her back. The set followed with 2014 Bury Me At Makeout Creek track “I Don’t Smoke.” Mitski motioned as if holding a cigarette and then glided her hand down her body as she crooned about a destructive love.
Red lights washed over the room for “Washing Machine Heart.” Mitski moved histrionically to the heart-thumping beats that personified the song’s infatuated protagonist. Her gestures included swishing her hands like a washing machine, folding and unfolding her arms and covering her eyes for the lines, “Baby, though I’ve closed my eyes/ I know who you pretend I am.”
The choreography, which had a David-Lynch-meets-performance-art eccentricity, intensified throughout the set. For “Francis Forever,” Mitski paced back and forth across the stage as restless as the hesitant and heartsick lyrics. Channeling cabaret next, she struck poses on a folding chair for “Dan the Dancer” and “Once More to See You,” off 2016’s Puberty 2.
Before proceeding with the set, Mitski acknowledged all the “familiar and unfamiliar faces” in the crowd with delight in her voice. She gave shoutouts to Downtown Boys vocalist Victoria Ruiz, Be The Cowboy packaging designer Mary Banas, a first-time concertgoer and the owner of a Mitski Twitter fan account, all of whom were there.
“I think that’s a beautiful thing; how we all just come together with all our different stories,” she said.
Older cuts like “Townie,” “Your Best American Girl” and “Drunk Walk Home” each prompted thunderous sing-alongs. Fans danced to recent single “Nobody” and seemed in awe of the epic “Geyser.” Mitski’s vocals remained precise and smooth in tone from beginning to end, from the falsetto in “I Will” to the hearty “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” As the 24-song set jumped across Mitski’s last four albums, the singer-songwriter brought out her guitar only once, for “A Burning Hill.”
Mitski concluded with “Two Slow Dancers,” a newer single from Be The Cowboy. The heavy-hearted serenade turned the room deep blue with Mitski reverting back to her poised stance and taking a bow at the end.
New York City’s Overcoats opened with a set of ambient electronic music and infectious pop. The duo, consisting of Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell, hugged before being led into song by their tour drummer. Elion and Mitchell then broke into synchronous dance as they filled The Warfield with their powerful harmonies.
Midway through the set, Overcoats performed a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” calling it a song that gives both members hope during difficult times. The pair dedicated the rendition to its late friend, who was a victim of gun violence.
They later brought several friends onstage to play the guitar, the saxophone and to sing a third harmony, along with them. Eighties drums and synths permeated a new cut, which went over well with fans, many of whom danced along.
The duo closed with “Leave the Light On,” encouraging the crowd to continue dancing while getting into the groove themselves. Elion and Mitchell hugged once more before taking off.