“Cleveland, holy shit,” Julia Michaels shouted to a packed House of Blues last night, “This is the 13th show of our first headlining tour, and I can already tell it’s gonna be one of our fucking favorites.”
The 25-year-old Iowa native began her energetic set with “Pink,” a tongue-in-cheek laugh at the expense of an old love interest from 2017’s Nervous System
Michaels, dressed in a jean jacket, light wash jeans, Vans and a graphic T-shirt, followed up with “Just Do It,” the catchiest track on Nervous System, which chronicles an unstable, off-and-on-again relationship nearing its end.
After a nod to the beginning of her career as a recording artist, Michaels left the stage for a moment and a prerecorded voiceover played for the crowd. It explained the singer-songwriter’s stage freight, anxiety and struggle to find the confidence to perform.
“I wanted this to be not just a safe place for you guys, but a safe place for me as well,” Michaels said. “We can just be together and be present; no insecurities. And that’s what I wanted Inner Monologue to be about.”
Michaels then reappeared, minus the jacket, showing off her heavily tatted arms as she made her way through this year’s EP, Inner Monologue Part 1
“Anxiety,” which Michaels recorded with her good friend Selena Gomez, was a crowd favorite. The track zeros in on social anxiety and finds Michaels not feeling up to going out then feeling left out when she stays in.
The crowd was also particularly engaged during “Happy,” a stripped-down ballad in which Michaels admits to sabotaging her happiness and healthy relationships due to her desire to suffer in order to write meaningful music.
“I don’t even sing the pre-chorus to this one,” Michaels laughed, then proceeded to hold the microphone out to the crowd.
Leading up to “Happy,” the lights dimmed and Michaels recited a “poem” which was more of a rant about the harm social media causes the mental health of youth.
“Now I get to compare myself to everyone else,” Michaels said. “No wonder we’re depressed.”
But despite any anxiety or stage fright Michaels may battle, she knows how to command a crowd. Her vocals may not be flawless and she may have no real choreography, but that’s all a part of her charm; she’s not trying to be someone she’s not.
When Michaels takes the stage, she has the sort of glow that can only come when someone is doing what they were meant to do.
Michaels created a personalized experience for as many fans as she could, singing “Happy Birthday” to a 9-year-old in the front row, and signing a record for her at one point. She took a fan’s phone and filmed a video onstage for her at another point.
Michaels also engaged the crowd as a whole, playing a brief ukulele set in the midst of the pit and doing her best to ensure that every misfit had a night to fit in.
The encore featured Michaels’ first single as a recording artist, the alt-pop smash-hit, “Issues,” and the acoustic lament, “What A Time (Feat. Niall Horan)” from Inner Monologue Part 1
With her 70- minute set, Michaels brought a unique fan-artist connection, leaving the crowd satisfied.
Opening act Josie Dunne won the crowd over with her impressive range and gritty, unwavering vocals. Dunne covered everything from Post Malone’s “Better Now” to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men,” setting the tone for Michaels’ powerful set.
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