Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing Melanie Martinez’ concert (well, concert-meets-musical). As The Mancunion’s Theatre Editor and a writer for the Music section, it was the perfect concert for me to review! Lots of artists provide their audiences with elaborate theatrics, but a Melanie Martinez concert is like no other.
Using the music of her album K-12, which was adapted into a live-action film, Martinez’ concert was, in a way, a sung-through musical. The story follows her character’s journey through school, starting with ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and ending with ‘Recess’.
Earlier this year, Martinez released her follow-up to K-12: an EP titled After School. Those songs were also included on the new deluxe edition of K-12.
When it was announced earlier this month that Martinez would be hosting a livestream, in which she would perform songs from both K-12 and After School, I knew I had to see (and review) this event!
Of course, watching a livestream is nothing like being in the audience of a live concert, but it is the best we are going to get during this seemingly endless pandemic, and I am fortunate enough to have seen both!
Martinez’ concert had a fantastic set, which I detailed in my review, but when watching the livestream, it was immediately obvious that the set was particularly better. This of course speaks to the impracticality of touring such an elaborate set – especially because, unlike a traditional musical, Martinez was not playing at venues for a week but just a single night.
The only disappointment I had regarding the set was the inferior cake dress that Martinez wore during ‘Strawberry Shortcake’. During her tour, bright lights were blasted into the audience – the most sharp, awful, bright lights I have ever seen – so that we could not see what was happening onstage. This gave the crew time to set up a massive skirt, in the shape of a strawberry shortcake, that Martinez was placed above. It seemed a little unnecessary, though – never heard of a curtain?
In the livestream, however, her cake skirt was just the length of her legs. This was likely due to time constraints: the creatives likely did not want to have to pause the livestream for five minutes whilst they set her up in the massive dress. They likely also wanted to gift viewers with something new.
I did wonder how Martinez managed to get changed so quickly. I wondered if the livestream was a few minutes behind, giving Martinez time to change costumes without making the audience wait too long. However, this is unlikely, given the fact that the opening song (‘Play Date’) had some technical difficulties: there was a repeat of Martinez’ vocals.
If I got changed as quickly as Martinez did, I would end up with my boxers on my head! She is a woman of many talents…
After ‘Play Date’, Martinez sang only five songs from K-12: my favourites, ‘Show & Tell’ and ‘Strawberry Shortcake’, followed by ‘Oranges’, ‘High School Sweethearts’ and ‘Nurse’s Office’. This was disappointing because there are so many fantastic songs that got cut from the setlist. It also meant that, unlike the live concerts, the livestream did not follow a linear story but was more of a traditional concert, albeit with musical-like sets and costumes.
However, it was great to see Martinez perform her After School songs live – the set and costumes for these songs were mind-blowing!
For ‘Test Me’, she pranced around a giant, beautiful dollhouse and poked her face through the windows at some points, in her usual quirky style.
This was followed by ‘Brain & Heart’, in which she wore a very risqué outfit, with trousers well-below her hips and her underwear very visible. This outfit seemed to be speaking to her feminist song ‘Strawberry Shortcake’, in which she details the ways that women are blamed for the sexual abuse they face – this “blame the rape on the miniskirt” kind of thinking.
In ‘Glued’, she dressed as a clown, with the whole performance becoming a beautiful circus. She appeared to be glued to a giant dartboard, with knives pierced all around her, into the board.
‘Field Trip’, meanwhile, had a hot air balloon as the centre-piece of its set. Martinez wore an incredible headband that incorporated a beautiful hair-piece, with thick hair standing upwards. The hair colour was Martinez’s signature half-black, half-pink, à la Cruella De Vil.
The penultimate song, ‘Numbers’, placed Martinez in a doll box: like ‘Test Me’, it alluded to Martinez’ older hit, ‘Dollhouse’, in which Martinez played a living doll. This was a great Easter egg for Martinez fans.
The final song was ‘The Bakery’, where Martinez lay in a giant, heart-shaped bath. Perhaps it was supposed to resemble a heart-shaped chocolate box.
The livestream ended kind of suddenly; fans in the live chat seemed shocked that it ended like that, especially because the concert lasted less than an hour, which was advertised. I expected Martinez to finish with ‘Fire Drill’, the final song of the K-12 tour and the song that played during the end credits of the K-12 film.
However, this did not take away from the brilliance of the livestream. It was short but sweet, with beautiful vocals, remarkable dancing, fantastic costumes, and an astounding set. A lot was squished into a mere 50 minutes!
The livestream made me long to be back in a theatre or music venue. It made me jealous of my past self – the self that got to see Martinez perform live. Sadly, this is the best we have right now – and Martinez really is the best of the best!
If you ever get chance to see Melanie Martinez perform live, please go – you will be blown away by her utter fabulosity!