Arts & Entertainment, Features, Reviews

REVIEW: MUNA wows sold-out venue with lively, emotional performance

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MUNA performing at Royale Boston on Sept. 18. Writer Sam Thomas reviews their performance in his article. SAM THOMAS/DFP STAFF

MUNA, the self-described “Greatest Band in the World,” opened the second leg of their North American tour Sunday night with a sold-out show packed with screaming, dancing and crying fans. I became a fan of MUNA after seeing them open for Phoebe Bridgers this past September and seeing their full show took my breath away, from both awe and continuous dancing.

MUNA released their first album “About U” in 2017 and has since grown in popularity, creating a unique blend of upbeat, danceable music with vivid, emotional lyrics. Their newest album, the self-titled “MUNA,” was released in June, featuring a collaboration with indie-pop superstar Bridgers and a song written with alternative legend Mitski.

Royale Boston was practically shaking from the cheering of fans, even before MUNA took the stage. Opening the show was pop punk band Meet Me @ The Altar, whose high-energy set immediately got the crowd dancing. It was their first show with MUNA, and they hit it out of the park.

As the lights dimmed before MUNA’s set, the crowd’s excitement was palpable. MUNA began their set with “What I Want,” a queer anthem celebrating the freedom to make fun yet slightly self-destructive decisions during a night out.

“I want the full effects,” lead singer and songwriter Katie Gavin sang. “I want to hit it hard. I want to dance in the middle of a gay bar.”

It was a perfect opening to the approximately 75 minute set, during which they played almost all of their new album and a mix of fan favorites from their previous work.

Just as the first notes of “Stayaway” — a standout track from MUNA’s sophomore album “Saves the World” — rang out, fans began screaming. The song communicates the unexpected difficulty of staying away from an ex when the initial leaving was supposed to be the hard part. A wobbling synthesizer played by guitarist and producer Naomi McPherson accompanied Gavin’s vocals, while guitarist Josette Maskin shredded their guitar, hyped up the crowd.

About halfway through their set, MUNA slowed down and made the sizable room feel intimate, showcasing their unique ability to foster a genuine feeling of community within a large crowd.

“Loose Garment” — a song McPherson said in an interview with NPR is a sort of “thesis statement” for their growth and a “very gentle way of seeing your life and your progress” — brought the crowd to a sort of awed contemplation, swaying in unison.

“Used to wear my sadness like a choker, yeah, it had me by the throat,” Gavin sang. “Tonight I feel I’m draped in it, like a loose garment. I just let it flow.”

Following “Loose Garment” was the song “If U Love Me Now” from their first album. Before playing, Gavin said they are sending love to anyone who relates to the heartbreaking song.
The more intimate section of the set was definitely well-timed. It allowed me and the crowd to take a break from the jumping and dancing to catch our breaths and appreciate the tenderness of MUNA’s music.

Before closing their set, MUNA played a cover of “Mr Brightside” by the Killers, which was very popular with the crowd. They blended the classic song with their own style, creating an incredible experience.

“I Know A Place,” one of MUNA’s most popular songs, concluded their set, encouraging the crowd to let go of their worries and anxieties and just enjoy the moment. It was a perfect culmination of the energy building throughout the night, exploding into a celebration of emotional liberation and the queer experience.

A two-song encore followed deafening chants from the crowd, begging for MUNA to continue the fun. “Shooting Star,” a slower song from the new record, elicited a lightshow of camera flashlights before launching into the song’s big outro.

In their final song of the night, MUNA played “Silk Chiffon,” a fan-favorite and their current most popular song on Spotify. The collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers brought the night to a positive end, with everyone singing “life’s so fun, life’s so fun,” the song’s bubbly pre-chorus.

In their words to the crowd, MUNA was so genuinely grateful and funny. Their love for music, for each other and for performing clearly came through in their incredibly fun set. It seemed like every single person there knew every word and sang — or, more accurately, screamed — along.

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