Melanie Martinez’s most recent concert, The K-12 Tour, would best be described as a stage adaptation of her album, and film of the same name, K-12.
K-12 could be described as a concept album — the concept of which being high school. The album starts with the song ‘Wheels on the Bus,’ and ends with the song ‘Recess’, so, clearly, it presents a linear journey, enabling it to also work as a video album.
I attended this concert having only listened to bits of the album an hour earlier, and having never seen the film, I did not know what to expect. It quickly became evident that this concert was a theatrical experience, a cross between a gig and a musical, with a lavish set, fancy costumes, and a linear story.
Melanie sung about socio-political issues, and the show was even a little disturbing at times. Whilst some people might prefer a simple concert, I’m the Theatre Editor of The Mancunion and a Politics student, so, as you can imagine, I was completely in my element. A Latina singing about socio-political issues at a theatrical concert — what more could I possibly want?
I’m sure Naaz, the opening act, would have been amazing if we could have seen and heard her for her whole performance; a failure owing to technical difficulties. The audience even shouted out that they could not hear her but to no avail. The tech team owe this great vocalist an apology.
The concert made great use of video projections, all of which were stylistic and beautiful. There were numerous ‘Lessons’ in between Melanie’s performances, but the volume was too loud and the bass was too high, so nobody really learned anything in spite of their visual spectacle.
The show’s set included a hospital bed for ‘Nurse’s Office’, a puppet box for ‘Show & Tell,’ and ironing boards for ‘Drama Club’. Perhaps my favourite performance was ‘Strawberry Shortcake’, where Melanie was propped above and inside of an enormous cake skirt. This took a while to create, and to keep the audience from watching the creation of the skirt, they blinded us with bright lights. Now, I’ve got sensitive eyes anyway, but the whole audience were covering their eyes during this moment of the concert.
The lights really were ridiculously bright, and whilst I understand that they did not want us to watch them create the skirt, so that we would be surprised and delighted upon seeing it, they could have found a better way of doing this than blinding us. This happened later on, too, but this time there was no costume change or set construction; Melanie just stood on an empty stage, so I have no idea why they felt the need to blind us again. If Melanie needed a quick rest, they could have had the dancers do a dance number, and if the dancers needed a break too, they should have made use of the video projections, which they used extensively through the rest of the concert.
In the encore, Melanie finally talked to the audience. Whilst it was a little strange of her to not acknowledge us throughout the main set, she was engrossed in a theatrical experience, so I think this was the right choice. The audience roared when “Crybaby” appeared on the screen, as it became evident that she would be singing some of her older music. She sang ‘Sippy Cup’, ‘Alphabet Boy’ and ‘Mad Hatter’, but unfortunately not ‘Carousel’ or ‘Dollhouse,’ my two favourite Melanie Martinez songs. She then ended the concert with ‘Fire Drill’, a K-12 era song that does not actually appear on the album.
Aside from the technical issues, this concert was spectacular. Lots of artists put on big shows, but Melanie told a story in a transfusion of music, dance, and theatre.