On Oct. 24, The Regency Ballroom emulated the energy of a queer frat — and to the oop-oop of what she declared a “lesbian cheer,” King Princess (she/they) was swiftly elected president.
Mikaela Straus, more widely known as King Princess, sauntered on stage to a roaring San Francisco crowd. Sporting a mullet, baseball cap and fringed shirt, Straus looked like they rolled out of bed casually glamorous. While she exuded insouciance, it was clear she took great pride in her Hold On Baby tour.
At the conclusion of her opener “Little Bother,” she threw her hands up casually, charming the audience with a seemingly spontaneous vocal run. Her effortlessness was inviting, and as much as her show captured their enticing swagger, Straus also filled The Regency Ballroom with comfort.
“I missed you like f—ing crazy,” King Princess said, reflecting on how this was her first headline tour in two years. Their latest album Hold On Baby was released earlier this summer, and their delight and pride in it shone through in their performance: “I’m gonna play the s— out of that album tonight,” they insisted.
And she did. Traversing both hope and heartbreak, her high-spirited show offered an hour and a half of felicity. Although Straus played a slew of vintage hits from her previous projects Make My Bed and Cheap Queen, their show centered around the hard-hitting versatility of Hold On Baby.
“I love you!” a fan screamed from the back of the theater.
“Oh, I love you too, babes,” Straus said automatically, a sly smile on her face as she transitioned into “Cursed.” The song’s soft pop rock soon transitioned flawlessly into the laidback ache of Make My Bed’s “Upper West Side.” Each time she sweetly sang “I can’t get enough of you,” Straus pointed at a new audience member, unable to stop a tender smile from sliding onto her face.
It was difficult for Straus to stop themselves from smiling, but when they leaned into their more uncompromising performer persona, the effect was overwhelming. During several songs, Straus sat on the edge of the stage, connecting with her audience through piercing eye contact — if King Princess herself was many people’s gay awakening, her show had evolved this awakening into a gay dream.
Straus continued her dreamy set with slinky, seductive fan favorite “Hit The Back,” her self-declared “anthem for bottoms everywhere.” She went out of her way to note that the song, while already a fan favorite, had special roots in San Francisco.
“The original line was,” Straus said, pausing to sing, “ ‘I ate your ass in San Francisco.’ ” The crowd reacted wildly. “For a couple reasons, that didn’t work.”
Naturally shifting between witty and vulnerable, Straus transfixed her audience despite the show’s minor technical issues — last minute belt pack additions, instrumentals overpowering vocals, one fleeting moment of sharp mic feedback. Although the fog machines distractingly whirred louder than the instrumentals for “Change The Locks,” this production oversight soon faded into the background; Straus hopped down to the barricade, swaying with her enthralled audience as she belted the chorus.
“Oh, is that your partner? Sorry, I’ll sing to you next time,” Straus promised to one audience member, laughing. “You know, I have the perfect song for your fight later.” Instantly, the blustery synth of “Talia” filled The Regency Ballroom to elated cheers, and the despairing track about drunken pining took on new life.
This sadness dissipated, however, as Straus shared her most moving interlude of the evening before performing “Back of a Cab.” Teary-eyed, she explained how people often bring their chosen families to her shows, which led to a grand exchange of affection among emotional crowd members with their loved ones. Almost instantly, the Regency Ballroom was filled with the warm, overflowing love of a safe space.
Love continued into the mawkish and sentimental “Winter Is Hopeful”; from the space between the stage and the barricade, Straus’ partner, Quinn Whitney Wilson, watched the show with a wide smile on her face. “Oh, Quinn, I love you, I feel it in seasons,” Straus sang, lovingly locking eyes with Wilson.
Like the seasons changing, Straus’ concert ebbed and flowed between unrestrained yearning and comfort. Triumphantly reassuring, King Princess reigned over The Regency Ballroom with their heart on their sleeve.