Before Julia Michaels took the stage at First Avenue, a sign appeared on stage stating it was a judgment-free zone. It encouraged dancing, singing, jumping, feeling and laughing. The sign was a huge hint into the vibe and energy that Michaels would bring to the show.
As her first headlining show in Minneapolis, the backdrop and stage design looked perfectly executed. Covered in glowing flowers and with a tied-in backdrop from the Inner Monologue albums, the set looked like a music video. The cartoonish flower patch and almost toy-like instruments used throughout the night provided a constant moving swirl of entertainment, choreographed dancing, and singalongs.
Opening the show with “Pink,” a song that includes no innuendos. It’s exactly what you think, Michaels had the all-ages crowd immediately singing along. Her R&B-inflected, dance-orientated pop music works perfectly with the Michaels’ own infectious energy. The second song in the set saw her band exit the stage, only to come back onstage with marching band electronic drums and two keytars. They performed her collaboration with Clean Bandit, “I Miss You.” The band then transitioned into “Make It Up To You,” with weaving choreographed moves and a flying V formation onstage.
With the band wearing muted coordinated colors that played on the set design, it felt like a polished, clean commercial from The Gap. But that effect and feeling enhanced Michaels’ ability to engage and connect to the audience. It felt safe and was presented to the audience as an easy format to absorb.
Lyrically dense, Julia speaks about boys, anxiety, getting hurt, and avoiding failed relationships. Her music fits superbly into what we all have gone through, at any age of our lives. You feel it at the show, that there’s an authentic bond and that Julia “sees you” from that stage.
For “Worst of Me,” Michaels requested the audience to pull out their cell phone lights. The song had the entire audience waving their cell phones in a wave of technology. The band had the audience in a classic cheer-off right before “Into You.” Julia came back on stage and lead the crowd in a clapping singalong of the chorus. “Happy” was one of my personal highlights as it’s an expertly crafted pop song. The chorus hits hard with heavy guitars, drums, and a chorus of ‘ohs’. The crowd knew all the words to the pre-chorus and being able to yell out, “I just want to be fucking happy” was fun.
“And sometimes I think I kill relationships for art
I start up all this shit to watch ’em fall apart
I pay my bills with it, I watch ’em fall apart
Then pay the price for it, I watch ’em fall apart”