Mitski performs at Lollapalooza, Chicago (2019) | Ted Alexander Somerville, Shutterstock / Editorial Use

Despite the stares I knew I would get on the subway, I wore a polka dot eighties prom dress and blue eyeshadow for Mitski. Though she wouldn’t see me in the crowd at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on February 22, I wanted to show how unabashedly joyful I felt to be there, to be a witness to the romance of her music. The people in flowing black garments looked elegant as they walked up the theater’s intricate staircase, with its gilded railings. But were they longtime fans, I wondered, or new listeners, there only for the recent viral hit “My Love Mine All Mine”?

At the beginning of her show, Mitski asked us to imagine ourselves as ghosts. She transported us to a time when Kings Theatre had been in disrepair, totally abandoned. I imagined myself floating above the mezzanine, my legs tapering off in a gray ripple.

After arriving onstage in a theatrical curtain drop, with “Buffalo Replaced,” Mitski invited us in to enjoy her playful choreography, mechanically hinging her hands in front of her face, an eerie peek-a-boo. In the same tone, she moved her body like a rag doll, controlled movements countered with melodramatic heaviness.

When she sang “I Bet on Losing Dogs”, she got down on all fours, acting like a lost puppy. I almost wanted to laugh: I felt embarrassed and moved by her unexpected gesture of supplication. More practically, I was concerned for her knees. I turned to my friend, who pointed out that Mitski was wearing thick, black knee pads. Her performance became more physical still, when she fell to the ground and rolled over her shoulder while singing “Geyser.” 

I found “Thursday Girl” unexpectedly hard to hear live; I had to keep myself from crying. I could have let it happen, it wouldn’t have mattered, but by repressing my tears I felt involved in a performance of my own. (Another of my friends had runny makeup at the end of the show—her experience was different from mine.)

In “First Love/Late Spring,” Mitski pretended to teeter on a chair on the edge of the stage, like she was about to jump. There was a second chair flipped over on the floor below her, legs reaching up, like she was about to fall off a rocky ledge. The whole sequence was thrilling, treacherous. To “Heaven,” Mitski used the stage light as a partner, as if dancing with a ghost. She sang a song about eating a whole cake—“I Don’t Like My Mind”—while writhing on the ground. She turned “Happy” into a country two-step, a lonely line dance. 

I had been worried that “My Love Mine All Mine” was the only song some people had come to hear, just because it blew up on TikTok. My worries quickly dissolved. It was beautiful to listen to everyone singing along, like a lullaby, and Kings Theatre was somehow more magical with a deconstructed disco ball scattering light. 

Mitski followed with “I’m Your Man,” my favorite song from the new album, and it sounded heartbreaking, even without the choir on the recording, as if her performance of masculinity was failing.

For an encore, Mitski came back on stage to sing “Nobody” and “Washing Machine Heart.” Her dancing, increasingly loose and joyful, brought the show to a cathartic close. She wasn’t just singing, she was immersing us in the world of these songs, engaging us with visuals, dancing, all with such apparent sincerity that I was moved to accept my own vulnerability. Going home, I felt connected to the folks on the subway platform, then in transit, touching shoulders on the Q train.