Bleachers - Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, Florida - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Bleachers - Jannus Live, St. Petersburg, Florida

by Mark Moody Rating: Release Date:

Straight off of his homegrown Shadow of the City festival in New Jersey, Jack Antonoff and present company performing as Bleachers rolled into St. Petersburg, Florida, on an oppressively humid Saturday night. Most Florida based shows were cancelled this past week (Japanese Breakfast and Lydia Loveless among them) due to Hurricane Irma enveloping the state, but Antonoff is the type to be undeterred by such nuisances.  At one point asking the crowd who had been without power (about all of us), who was still without power (a smattering still) and a rousing “F*** Irma”, Jack knows how to work his crowd but also seems sincere about it.  Frankly, the muggy and crowded outdoor courtyard environs of Jannus Live probably were about the equivalent of living a week without air conditioning, but no one seemed worse for wear.  Bleachers were the perfectly prescribed antidote for the near capacity crowd.  Post catastrophic conditions definitely call for indie pop and any gloomy moods were checked at the door - this crowd was ready to celebrate.  

The show was kicked off by, just recently relocated to L.A. from Seattle, sugary pop band Tangerine.  The straightforward pop sound of the band definitely fits their new found Southern California home.  Coming off as a sweeter HAIM, the sister-led band knows their chops and can write a tuneful song.  Lead singer, Marika Justad, and her drumming sister, Miro, took the crowd through a handful of songs from last year’s EP Sugar Teeth and some more recent tracks like the percolating single ‘Sly Moon’.  I liked them best at their punchiest like on the guitar rave-up, ‘Sunset’ and they keep the melodies in tact at louder volumes.  Speaking with them between sets, it sounds like there is more on the horizon for this up and coming band.  They also played at Antonoff’s festival and will be touring with Bleachers through their Denver date.

Antonoff and crew took the stage to the opening strains of ‘Dream of Mickey Mantle’, the first track off this year’s Gone Now LP.  Jack was in full on album cover regalia as the lights came up. Looking like he stepped straight out of a Wes Anderson film, I’m not quite sure what the uniform is supposed to represent (an East Indies sea captain?), but the crowd loved it.  Quickly shedding the garb, Antonoff continued the rest of the concert in a plain white t-shirt and blue jeans - a modern day synth pop Bruce Springsteen with his own Clarence Clemmons. By the second song, ‘Goodmorning”, the band was fully synched up and contributing Queen-like harmonies.

The band consisted of dual drummers, saxophone/keyboard player, bass/keyboard player with almost everyone playing multiple instruments.  Antonoff concentrated on lead guitar and sometimes just vocals, letting him better work the crowd.  Sax player, Evan Smith, stole the show in several moments with a jazzy solo on ‘Foreign Girls’ and more typical accompaniment on ‘Everybody Lost Somebody’.  Singling out drummer Mike Riddleberger for his birthday, a cake was passed into the front of the crowd and quickly demolished.

The songs off the new album worked best in the live setting with only ‘Rollercoaster’ and, of course, ‘I Wanna Get Better’, from 2014’s Strange Desire, rousing the crowd into boisterous sing-alongs.  The only nod to his prior band, fun., was a very shortened ‘Carry On’, which segued quickly into a slow version of ‘Like a River Runs’.  Given that only two full albums worth of materials were concentrated on, Bleachers had no issues keeping the crowd engaged for ninety minutes given Antonoff’s showmanship and pop smarts.  Though themes on his new album deal with loss, loneliness, and leaving home, you would never know from the exuberance coming from the stage.  During a break between songs, he explained how the mournful sounding Juno 106 keyboard feels like it’s hugging you, but that he can’t help but dream of bigger sounds with sad songs becoming celebrations.  The whole night had a celebratory feel with the party on stage being as lively as the one in the crowd.  As my daughter observed, the band is up there having a great time - we just happen to be here.  And everyone was glad for that.

Photo credits:  Christa Joyner Moody                       

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