On Nov. 13, at The Fillmore in San Francisco, Julia Michaels played a polished, sold-out show. The performance marked her first headline show in San Francisco, as well as her first time performing on her birthday. With this being a big night for firsts, it was sure to be a unique show.
Julia Michaels’ story of a songwriter-turned-star performer may seem a little cliche, but Michaels is proof that the cliche exists for a reason. Getting her start by writing for Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Fifth Harmony and many more, Michaels was able to break into the mainstream with her single “Issues” in 2017. The artist has been blazing her own trail ever since.
Opening with her song “Pink,” the precedent Michaels wanted to set was clear right from the get-go. At the rear end of the stage was an impressionist-like garden scene, including a huge inflatable yellow flower that Michaels stood in front of. The entire concert seemed incredibly well-rehearsed, from Michaels’ various interactions with the audience to her interactions with her band members. That is not to say that the rehearsal didn’t pay off, as it was an incredibly clean set with everything performed to perfection.
Michaels has made her brand one of feel-good, women-supporting-women positivity. At various parts of the show, she would reveal aspects of her battle with mental health, including depression and anxiety. This was best showcased with her song “Anxiety,” in which she revealed her struggles, particularly in regard to when one doesn’t get the support they feel they deserve.
At various points in the concert, Michaels pulled aside her various bandmates, having them share the center stage with her and introducing them to the audience. Almost all of her backing musicians played multiple instruments and indulged in her pop theatrics from time to time.
To preface the performance of her song “Priest,” Michaels stated that it was for those who don’t subscribe to any particular religion. The song, which can be interpreted as being about not accepting someone’s apology or confession, was sung along to by an avid audience.
About midway through the concert, Michaels left the stage and moved to the center of the crowd where she stood on a box with her acoustic guitar to perform a number of songs — one of which was a rendition of Cee Lo Green’s “F— You.” The performance elicited much audience participation, with her voice often overpowered by the roar of the audience proclaiming, “F— you!”
For her song “Uh Huh,” which takes on a heavy, rock-pop sound, Michaels released hundreds of multicolored pastel balloons from the ceiling, jokingly stating “you don’t think I wouldn’t have balloons for my birthday?”
And finally, for her encore, Michaels performed “What a Time” and “Issues,” the former playing to a deafening roar of approval from the audience. At this point, confetti bombs went off, creating a sort of delighted pandemonium in the crowd. At the end of the song, a huge birthday cake was brought onto the stage — complete with lit candles — to the absolute delight of Michaels.
Ending the concert on a high note, Michaels exited the stage with the audience feeling good about themselves and the show they had just witnessed.
Highlights: “Anxiety,” “Uh Huh,” “Worst in Me”
Contact Zoë Cramer at [email protected].