Bleachers’ show at Webster Hall was a homecoming for the East Coast band currently touring its critically acclaimed debut album, “Strange Desire.” The band is the latest project from Jack Antonoff, the lead guitarist of indie pop band Fun. With Antonoff taking the lead musical role, Bleachers’ music is bolder, featuring catchy rhythms, guitars and an ’80s vibe while still maintaining Fun.’s attention to passionate, angst-ridden choruses that make for a promising live experience.
The gig opened with “Wild Heart,” immediately capturing and exciting the crowd. “Like a River Runs” and “Shadow” were also well-received by an audience that ranged from teenagers to adult couples, who all sang along to the choruses. Both the band’s music and their stage presence attracted an audience of all ages.
The appeal of Bleachers’ music, largely rooted in its ability to be belted out, naturally waned as slower songs lulled the energy of the show. “Take Me Away” — which features Canadian pop singer Grimes — used a prerecorded track to replace the absent artist. The crowd was less engaged as they were when shouting and fist pumping during Antonoff’s earlier songs.
However, Bleachers managed to keep the audience entertained and in high spirits. “Strange Desire” is Bleachers’ first album, which, in many cases, would have limited the band to only a few songs. Antonoff made the smart decision of performing material that was not on the album to augment the set list. A surprising highlight of the show was an acoustic version of “Dreams” by The Cranberries. Later, Antonoff also performed a stripped-down version of “Bullet” by Steel Train and had the audience singing along to every word. The band impressed the crowd with a variety of musical genres.
Antonoff started the show wearing a sweater — no small feat, conisidering the heat both inside and outside the concert hall — but, as was bound to happen, the sweater came off as the band played “Rollercoaster.” The song brought Bleachers back to its most successful style: pop anthems where guitar riffs and catchy choruses seize the crowd’s attention.
The encore was a moment many in the audience were waiting for, and the striking introductory chords of Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better” were met with roars from a satisfied crowd. Antonoff’s performance was playful and passionate. He appears to have truly come in to his own as a front man.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 9 print edition. Email Perdi Higgs at [email protected]