Image: Sophie Flint Vázquez via The Boar

Bleachers ‘Take the Sadness out of Saturday Night’ at O2 Institute Birmingham

O2 Institute Birmingham, 23rd March 2024

The crowd is full of fans wearing t-shirts with the artwork for Bleachers’ newly released self-titled album, as we wait patiently for Jack Antonoff to take the stage alongside his band, Bleachers.

Since releasing their debut album Strange Desire in 2015, Bleachers have gone from strength to strength. This year alone, the band has released their fourth studio album, announced their biggest headline show at Madison Square Garden, to now embarking on their sold-out tour From the Studio to the Stage across the UK. Frontman Antonoff, the recipient of ten Grammys, has garnered much success as a music producer, working alongside the biggest names in pop, including Taylor Swift and Lorde. However, it is with his band that we can witness his talent and creativity on stage.

As the backdrop reading “From the Studio to the Stage: Bleachers” is unveiled, excitable cheers echo across the walls of Birmingham’s O2 Institute. The cleverly placed ‘Recording Studio In Use’ light shines brightly to unveil frontman Antonoff standing beneath it before the opening staccato chords of ‘I Am Right On Time’ begin to play – not only is this track the perfect opener for the newly released self-titled album, but also the perfect opener for Bleachers’ sell-out tour.

It is clear as Antonoff jumps around the stage that the band are currently on a career-high

As the saxophone bursts into the upbeat and uplifting lead single of Bleachers, ‘Modern Girl’, the excitement from both the band and the crowd just buzzes around the room as everyone sings along to the chorus: “And all the modern boys/ Are going out tonight.” It is clear as Antonoff jumps around the stage that the band are currently on a career-high, after the successful release of their new album at the start of the month and playing two sold-out nights in London, and a following sold-out night in Manchester.

“You want more?” Antonoff asks. “How dare you want more!” Bleachers’ frontman exclaims before breaking into ‘How Dare You Want More’ from their 2021 album Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night. Saxophonist Evan Smith joins Antonoff at the front of the stage as they perform an electrifying saxophone and guitar duet. Not only does Antonoff know how the craft an excellent album, but he also knows how to put together a stellar setlist, pulling songs from Bleachers’ four albums to create a high-energy atmosphere.

Even the stripped-back songs are full of energy. As Antonoff strums an acoustic guitar, transitioning between a snippet of ‘45’ to ‘Me Before You’, he encourages the crowd to sing along to the chorus and backing vocals.

Moreover, Antonoff takes the time to interact with the crowd. Explaining that it is the band’s first time performing in Birmingham, he jokes that the keyboard he bought to write the first tracks released by the band was shipped all the way from Birmingham. “All this great music that came from Birmingham came to my door,” Antonoff jokes.

The entirety of the band is having just as much fun as the audience

Before breaking out into the hit song ‘Rollercoaster’ from the 2015 debut album Strange Desire, a song best described as encapsulating the overwhelming feeling of serotonin at the end of a coming-of-age movie, Antonoff encourages everyone in the pit to get up on each other’s shoulders. It is refreshing to witness a frontman who can naturally and confidently interact with the crowd. Antonoff even takes two requests from the audience, leading to acoustic renditions of ‘Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song)’ from the Love Simon soundtrack and ‘Alma Mater’, a jam session with Lana Del Rey released on their self-titled album.

Throughout the set, it appears that the entirety of the band is having just as much fun as the audience. During ‘You’re Still a Mystery’, Antonoff takes the time to introduce each of the band members. Giving each of the band members their time in the spotlight, the talent just floods off the stage. There is an appreciation around the room for the true artistry that is being shown before us.

The final four songs round up an incredible setlist. The lights turn pink as the band transitions from ‘I Wanna Get Better’ to ‘Tiny Moves’, a love song from Antonoff to his wife. The saxophone-infused ‘Stop Making This Hurt’ has the entirety of the pit waving their hands in the air and singing along to the chorus: “Stop making this hurt/ And say goodbye like you mean it”. As Bleachers leave the stage after performing ‘Don’t Take The Money’ from Gone Now, released in 2017, the excitement and energy levels are just as high as they were when the lights went down.

Although Antonoff may spend the majority of his time in the recording studio, he is certainly as comfortable on the stage. For Bleachers’ dedicated fanbase, the setlist which consisted of an equal weighting of each of the band’s four albums was appreciated. With the combination of the band’s dynamic stage presence and Antonoff’s ability to pen catchy, anthemic songs, the only direction for Bleachers to go is up.



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