Live Review: Bleachers @ The Anthem — 9/24/21

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Bleachers performs at The Anthem on Sept. 24, 2021. (Photo by Mickey McCarter)

“There is no cynicism in live music,” declared Jack Antonoff, adding, “We fucking missed you.”

And a sold-out audience at The Anthem clearly missed Jack, embracing the sincere narratives of new songs by Bleachers from album Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night in a recent life-affirming performance.

On Sept. 24, Jack paused the show several times to chat at length with the crowd, and performers and observers seemed to have an instant connection. Some of that came from Jack’s everyman good nature but more of it came from Jack’s willingness to give the show everything he had, both physically and emotionally.

Expressing a joy to the return of live music after long pandemic lockdowns, Jack talked to folks as if he just picked up the phone to catch up with old friends. At a particularly poignant moment, he shared that European booking agent Steve Strange of X-Ray Touring had died that day, and that Steve had been a friend. Jack launched into “Everybody Lost Somebody” from 2017’s Gone.

Jack made every minute count in the 20-song set, bringing opening act Claud to the stage for a duet of the new album’s “Secret Life” halfway through the set. Bedroom popper Claud sang with an earnestness that meshed well with Jack’s own authenticity.

Stream Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night by Bleachers on Spotify:

While the fresh additions to the set were roundly applauded, the audience saved their biggest reactions for the familiar tunes of Strange Desire, the 2014 Bleachers debut album. At about two-thirds through the show, every voice joined the refrain of “Rollercoaster,” belting “Rollercoaster, I don’t say no/ Rollercoaster, you don’t say no.” More singing followed for “I Wanna Get Better” toward the end of the show, still clearly the endearing and enduring favorite of the Bleachers’ set.

In addition to throwing himself into the show, Jack demonstrated a clear fondness for DC at several points, further winning me over. He name dropped Jammin’ Java, Black Cat, and 9:30 Club as places bands perform on their “way up” to the spectacular stage at The Anthem. And in the middle of the show, he covered “Jersey Girl” by Tom Waits, substituting a reference to “cross the river to the DC side.” Jack was a lot of fun (indeed) but he also showcased his work ethic and his desire to expand his sonic palette through chamber pop instrumentation and heartland balladeering.

Check your cynicism at the door next time you see Bleachers.

Here are some pictures of Bleachers performing at The Anthem in DC on Sept. 24, 2021.

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