Review: Bleachers transcend cookie-cutter pop with energy, positivity at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg
Bleachers released their first album, Strange Desire, eight months ago, and are selling out small venues across the country. But they didn’t get to the spotlight by luck, as frontman Jack Antonoff has earned his musical clout and paid his dues as a member of Steel Train and Fun.
I must admit that I went into Bleachers’ sold-out concert Wednesday at the State Theatre a hater. Personally, the studio cuts appeared trite, cheesy catchy and cookie-cutter, aside from Antonoff’s distinct vocals.
You’d guess that it’d be hard to perform a full set with only 40 minutes of material, but they managed just over an hour -- and not a Die Antwoord “hour,” but a rather crowd-rousing, high energy set that included three covers and plenty of lathering the crowd with compliments.
Antonoff said he fell in love with St. Petersburg when he was 15, and told anecdotes of meeting strangers and forgetting his broken heart while romping about the ’Burg, ending with, “Anything can happen here; that’s what I think.”
But about the gig: First, all five members looked like they could have been exported from a 1995 Urban Outfitters catalog, if there was such a thing then. Clad in denim, nameplates, headbands, and tucked-in shirts; the bandmates looked as textbook as their music.
They ramped right into Like a River Runs, preceded by a canned track of Tomorrow from Annie. By Wild Heart, fans were bouncing every which way, a mass of dancing fools that believed in everything for a moment, forcing Antonoff to declare St Petersburg “the greatest.”
Wake Me was dedicated to the couples, and Rollercoaster sprinkled in some ’80s synths laced with fetching ’90s melodies, executed by a ’00s-looking boy-band in the ’10s, making it a something of a four-decade-strong song.
Bleachers played every track from Strange Desire plus Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac, a short acoustic rendition of American Girl by Tom Petty and an acoustic Steel Train cover, Bullet.
They stretched out You’re Still A Mystery with a good 10 minutes of band introductions, solos and an electric guitar-versus-saxophone battle. Naturally, they saved the best for last and ended with radio single I Wanna Get Better, which has become a positive anthem compared to some otherwise self-destructive millennial song themes of recent years.
Despite my initial personal resistance, their genuine gratitude towards the crowd, Antonoff’s elbow-rubbing with fans and overall graciousness shrouded any notion of ego that tends to attach to newfound fame. Plus, they performed well, and they’re lyrically strong, so I came out the other side less a hater and more a supporter. I’ll appreciate seeing them at the State Theatre when they’re selling out Amalie Arena someday.
-- Stephanie Bolling, tbt*