Music Critic Dan Smith attends Bleachers’ tour, praising the band for their versatile live show

Written by Dan Smith

Six-time Grammy Award winner Jack Antonoff and his band Bleachers rolled into Birmingham on the third stop of their ‘From The Studio To The Stage’ tour in support of their fourth studio album Bleachers. The atmosphere was palpable in the sold out O2 Institute for what was Bleachers first ever headline show in the second city. Following the strong support act, Kateo, a white backdrop was lifted brandishing the band’s name and a box on top of the stage lit up signalling that their metaphorical studio was now in use and the show was about to begin. 

The band then entered the stage to the sound of church organs with Antonoff standing firmly in the spotlight which was equally ethereal as it was seraphic. With the crowd fully immersed, the band opened with the soft sounding ‘I Am Right On Time’ from their latest release before their signature saxophone filled the venue for the start of the lead single ‘Modern Girl’, a much faster and up-beat track. The crowd erupted for what was their first chance of the night to let loose; there would be many more to come. A trio of songs from ‘Bleachers’ was then completed with ‘Jesus Is Dead’. Jacks’ dad Ricky Antonoff then came on stage to join the band for the performance of ‘How Dare You Want More’, it was evident from this song especially how much the band truly enjoy performing these tracks and the camaraderie they have.

The show was then slowed down with a beautiful piano version of ‘Goodmorning’

Next was an affectionate track from their debut album ‘Strange Desires’, ‘Wake Me’, it was great to hear tracks from these earlier eras throughout the show! The vastly hopeful track ‘Everybody Lost Somebody’ was next, showcasing Antonoff’s experience with grief and how this journey is a universal one. The show was then slowed down with a beautiful piano version of ‘Goodmorning’, reflecting the amazing versatility of the groups’ music and their ability to evoke a multitude of emotions from the listener. A short but sweet snippet of the track ‘45’ was then played, which was a nice moment with the crowd singing along in unison to the acoustic track. ‘Me Before You’ and ‘Self Respect’ from the new record were played either side of their 2020 single ‘Chinatown’ which was another beautifully serene track, with the crowd belting out Bruce Springsteen’s verse from the song. The band once again went back to the beginning with ‘Wild Heart’ from their debut album, the strong piano and synths on this elicited euphoria and it felt almost transcendent.

Antonoff’s crowd work was phenomenal throughout the show, my favourite moment of this was when he repeatedly stopped and started the introduction of ‘Rollercoaster’. He highlighted how lonely and overwhelming the silence felt when the track was stopped but just by turning on a backing track a great sense of hope and optimism was created, reflecting how music can be an amazing outlet for people. Then ‘Rollercoaster’ finally began and the punchy electric guitar and drums sent the crowd into raptures for this iconic track. The fun continued with the elated synth pop track ‘Let’s Get Married’, from my personal favourite album, ‘Gone Now’. The show was definitely not a linear one with it once again being slowed down with a trifecta of acoustic tracks. First was ‘Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song)’, followed by the live debut of ‘Alma Mater’ (upon fan request) before finishing with ‘Foreign Girls’, all showcasing Antonoff’s vocal proficiency. Which maybe he isn’t given enough credit for, due to his outstanding production skills.

A sea of applause swept the institute as the band left the stage

Coming to the end of the set, Antonoff stated the band would not do the cliche thing of leaving the stage just to re-enter for an encore but would instead just ‘give their everything’ and ‘blow the roof off’ for their remaining songs. He certainly delivered on this promise with ‘You’re still a mystery’ and the energy in the room reached fever pitch with the fan favourite ‘I Wanna Get Better’. Infectious sonorous synths and guitar riffs were a staple of this show, infatuating all in attendance. ‘Tiny Moves’ was next, another joyous track, it is one of my favourites from the new album. The band then gleefully played the piano and sax-infused track ‘Stop Making This Hurt’ before Antonoff stopped for a moment to thank the Birmingham crowd for coming out and being a great audience for their first headline show in the city. But this was not the end as the quintessential Bleachers song ‘Don’t Take The Money’ began to kick in and the crowd jumped in adulation of the band one last time. Shortly after, a sea of applause swept the institute as the band left the stage, showing the crowds undying appreciation for the show they just had the pleasure of watching. 

Having seen Bleachers once before I expected the show to be high-energy and full of crowd interaction. I was not disappointed, the band really know how to captivate their audience through rhythmic beats and groovy saxophone, it’s almost impossible to not want to dance to their songs and that is a testament to them. The synergy of the band was great to see and Jack Antonoff continually proves that he is one of the most versatile musicians currently, whether that be producing number-one albums or creating an amazing live show as an elite frontman. I cannot wait to see Bleachers again!

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