Melanie Martinez• Portals Tour• w/ Tanukichan• June 1, 2023• Sandy Amphitheater
Reviewed and Photographed by Kevin Rolfe
My niece knows that I review and photograph concerts. For at least two years, probably more, she has been telling me that I need to cover Melanie Martinez when she comes to town. Other times I’d visit her she would ask me if I knew when Melanie was going to play here. I have had my eye out for this tour for some time. I’m sure you could imagine how exciting it was to finally tell my niece that Melanie Martinez would finally be returning to Utah on her Portals Tour. Martinez has not been here since 2019. I would imagine the pandemic had something to do with that. Judging by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd at the Sandy Amphitheater, my niece wasn’t the only one excited about seeing this concert.
Melanie Martinez was a contestant on The Voice finishing in the top 6 of season 3. From there she went on to hone her own style. She then created a trilogy of concept albums featuring the character, Cry Baby, with the album Portals being the finale. Portals just came out at the end of March 2023 so this would be the first time this rabid crowd would hear these songs live.
This would be Utah Concert Review’s first time back at Sand Amphitheater this year. Sandy Amp has already hosted a couple of concerts and they are off to a great start. It was great to run into ushers, security, and members of the Sandy Amp team that I have rubbed shoulders with over the years at Sandy. It seems like any outdoor show comes with the threat of rain right now. But fortunately, the intimidating clouds from the afternoon moved on and we were spared any precipitation for the night.
The fans were bursting with excitement. The merch line went up the hill, across the lawn, down the other side of the hill, and into the concession area. I have to hand it to the crew at Sandy Amp. While that line was as long as I’ve ever seen it, whenever I looked over it kept moving. I talked to a few fans and they said that they were surprised how quickly the line went. The diverse crowd were dressed up either like the Cry Baby character or some version of a fairy, nymph, or, fantastical creature. It was impressive just how many people dressed up for this show.
Tanukichan opened the show. I was happy for them. The crowd had already arrived so they were able to perform for a full house. Openers don’t always get to do that. Their sound was much more subdued than the type of music you might expect at a Melanie Martinez concert. But the audience seemed to really enjoy the music. I met Tanukichan’s tour manager, Pam during their performance. She told me that Melanie Martinez is a big fan and she really wanted them on the tour. Utah is really supportive of opening bands. Tanukichan didn’t say much, but they seemed to have a good time. The fans noticed that and gave them a loud applause after every song.
The highlight for me was when Tanukichan played a cover of “Thank You” by Dido. I was surprised to hear a song from “my generation”. But then I felt uncomfortable thinking that maybe this was considered an “Oldies” song for the band. Either way, they did a good job with the cover. They stayed fairly true to the original while also adding their own style. While Tanukichan was a vastly different band in both style and dynamics to Melanie Martinez, I thought they had a cool sound and it seemed like they won over a lot of the crowd.
Now when I say that this crowd was fired up, I don’t think I’m doing it justice. There was so much excitement. Every move the crew made, they cheered. Every little glimpse they got of the staging they cheered. 8:30 showtime couldn’t have come soon enough. Just then the fog machines went off. I think it was just to test them, but to the crowd, it meant it was go time. They roared as if Melanie appeared. But they were not wrong. Not too long after the stage was clear and although it was still light out, the stage went dark. A black curtain dropped to thunderous applause. A fantasy-like backdrop was revealed, with inflatable mushrooms, hanging moss, and leaves, and a digital screen that would do most of the scene-changing work.
The band took their positions upstage, and moments later, Martinez appeared with an ensemble of dancers. She was wearing the same nymph mask that she wears on the Portals album cover. I wondered if she’d be wearing this for the first song or two and then remove it. But she wore it throughout the entirety of the show. Because I go to so many concerts, I always wear earplugs. It was pointless to wear them on this night. The volume of the crowd at Sandy Amphitheater pierced right through them. It was LOUD! I quickly learned that there is no such thing as a casual Melanie Martinez fan. People knew every single word to every single song. I mean, I know the words to bands I like. But this was next level. Every word and every inflection was memorized.
Melanie performed the entire deluxe version of her album Portals in order. I’m not sure if the devoted fans knew this was happening, but I for sure did not. It would make sense since Portals is a concept album telling a story. She moved through the songs without much dialogue in between songs. I’m not sure any speaking would be heard. I know I keep going back to how excited these fans were. Maybe I don’t feel like I’m getting across how engaged, and in love with Melanie they were. I saw so many people literally weeping. Balling their eyes out.
They connect with Martinez so much. I’m sure that can come across as pretty strange or even a little too much to some. But I liked it. It took me back to when I first started finding the bands and singers that I loved and still love to this day. I’m not sure if I cried at their concerts. But I was for sure devoted.
The crowd seemed to react strongly to songs like “Light Shower”, where Melanie sat on a, worm? Maybe. Or a slug? Perhaps a cocoon? Whatever it was it was an interesting prop that sat center stage while the dancers moved around it. Fans roared when Melanie asked, “Who’s on their period?!” before performing “Moon Cycle”. Can’t say I saw a crowd cheering with exhilaration to that question on my concert-going checklist. But once again it was fun to see the crowd react to anything and everything Melanie said.
I thought was were at peak level of volume, and elation. But that was before Melanie Martinez performed Evil. Wow! It was insane. There were moments I couldn’t even hear Melanie. It’s crazy when you think we’ve reached the highest moment of the night only for the fans to take it way further than you would ever anticipate.
I enjoyed the show. The dancing, the look, and the whole tour aesthetic, with continuing the theme of the album flowed nicely. I thought it was a little strange that following the performance of the Portals album, Melanie didn’t perform some of her other hit songs and fan favorites. It didn’t seem like anyone else seemed to mind. I just found it curious.
Speaking of fans, I thought, rather than just getting my opinion, it might be best to get the opinion of true fans. My tween niece and her friend were there. I wanted to get their insights on the show.
With freshly acquired tour shirts, they were asked what they thought of their first Melanie Martinez concert. “I love it! I loved the costume setup, especially the stage setup.” They said their favorite songs were “Death” and “Evil”. When asked what they would remember the most they said, “Probably how she started each song. It was so awesome! How she did the fog and the really bright lights.” Speaking to the fans, “If you’re going to a Melanie Martinez concert you have to know every single one of her songs. You can’t just know one or two of them.” They concluded by saying they had never seen so many nymphs in their entire life.
That pretty much encapsulates the night. Nymphs galore, lights, fog, dancing for days, and a pop star that has as devoted fans as I’ve ever seen.