Bush Hall in London may be on of the capital’s smaller, more intimate gig venues but there was nothing small about Bleacher’s performance on Wednesday. Lead-singer and super-producer Jack Antonoff spoke of his belief that “sad songs can be big songs” and proved that with a show energetic enough to headline the biggest festival, bouncing off the walls of Bush Hall.
Bleachers have a very special place in their fans’ hearts. They’re on the up but not part of the over-publicised music industry that dominates today. Antonoff creates an incredibly close relationship and constant dialogue with his fans. The show at Bush Hall didn’t feel like simply a band performing to onlookers, it felt very much like a joint effort where every single person in the crowd has a part to play in the live experience.
Antonoff’s passionate performance made it seem as if he was not just on the stage, but stood side-by-side with the 400 strong crowd living every moment. He was constantly within touching distance of the first row, drawing every emotion possible from the crowd and endeavouring to make eye-contact with each person stood in front of him.
Halfway through the show the lead singer asked if the crowd has “loosened up” enough yet. In reality, from the moment the band bursted onto stage with the euphoric love-song ‘Shadow’, not a single soul wasn’t engaged.
The long journey from the States did take its toll on Bleachers’ instruments and set-up with a small number of techincal difficulties. Antonoff, being a perfectionist, refused to just carry on and give half a show. Before ‘Everybody Lost Somebody’ one of the members, Mikey Hart’s, keyboard stopped working. Whilst Antonoff suggested just playing through, or perhaps an acoustic version, it was clear he was reluctant. Throughout the show it became so evident how much he cares about every note, every sound and every lyric – almost conducting the rest of the band at points in order to ensure the whole show went off as planned. Instead of playing a second-rate version of ‘Everybody Lost Somebody’, an important song to the front man who lost his sister at a young age, he engaged in a humourous chat with the British crowd over Brexit and Donald Trump. Eventually, Hart re-tuned a piano and it was so worth the wait. The way the whole group shared the emotion behind the track gave it even more meaning that when listeneing to it on the album.
Throughout the show it became so evident how much he cares about every note, every sound and every lyric – almost conducting the rest of the band at points in order to ensure the whole show went off as planned.
Tender moments in songs such as ‘Reckless Love’ and ‘Like a River Runs’ were reminders of the dark places where Bleachers’ music comes from and stunned the crowd into rare moments of silence. The band don’t want to just linger on those sad moments though. The pounding of ‘Let’s Get Married’ and ‘Rollercoaster’ celebrate being able to feel these emotions and were met with a rapturous reception. The two drum kits, four keyboards, numerous saxophones and guitars created a sound that pulsed against the walls of the intimate venue.
That intimacy is something that Antonoff sees as fundamental in the creation of his work. During the North American leg of the tour he took his childhood room around the country in a trailer, inviting fans in to hear the album in the very place he experienced those feelings of being lost and self-discovery that make Gone Now so convincing. That bedroom, unsurprisingly, didn’t come across the ocean but Antonoff still made sure to come out after the gig to see all the awaiting fans. When many artists would just take a photo, sign an autograph and be off, the 33-year-old engaged in conversation with every single one. He is no prententious showman, he wholeheartedly lives and breathes the emotion of his work.
Bleachers finished on a flourish with the up-tempo ‘I Wanna Get Better’ and, lead single from Gone Now, ‘Don’t Take The Money’ as a beaming smile spread on Antonoff’s face at just how much the crowd was reacting to the music.
Bush Hall experienced magic last night. Bleachers put on a real show with real emotion and a real euphoria. Jack Antonoff is a lot more that someone else’s songwriter – he’s the full package.