If this gig is anything to go by, Phoebe Bridgers is coming up fast on the rails as a spokesperson for a generation. Second album Punisher was everywhere during lockdown, and her hushed acoustic tales of twenty-something depression, therapy and relationship breakdown resonated mightily.
Three thousand souls gathered at the Academy, hugely excited to be part of the much-postponed Punisher victory lap tour. Fronting a full band kitted out in her trademark skeleton tops, we got a focused 90 minute set that saw almost all of Punisher played together with the highlight half of debut Stranger In The Alps.
The Punisher songs, on the whole, were beefier and filled the venue out impressively. Some of the delicacy and poise of the absolute best of …Alps however I felt got lost in the transition from headphones to stage. Opener Motion Sickness fared best, prompting a huge singalong from the get-go, while my personal favourite Scott Street (has anyone recorded a better single song in the past five years?) fell a bit awkwardly between acoustic and electric, solo and band. If you record a song that good, expectations will be high. Predictably but effectively the main set ended with Punisher closer The End, cue for a medium-scale band wig-out. Only one encore, an affecting solo Waiting Room.
In between songs we got a generous amount of spokesperson chat: a long Roe v Wade statement, together with thoughts on dads who drink and drive, relationship breakdown and tons of other stuff. She’s a tremendously passionate and sincere personality and spending 90 minutes in her company is time well-spent.
If you’re detecting a slight hesitation, it’s simply that she’s an artist with two albums who hasn’t toured that much, and occasionally it shows. Another album of the quality of her first two and her shows will be quite something.
Seventy percent female, and fifty percent under eighteen. First time in a long, long while that actual screaming greeted the start of the gig. Singing along, phones in the air, phone lights turned on, a fully engaged audience hanging on Bridger’s every word.. While it was hot, 15 outside, the gig had to be halted for five minutes to allow water to be handed out and the press at the front to cool down.
It made me think..
Not every artist is amazingly better live than on record, and there’s nothing wrong in that.