There’s something almost comforting about seeing an illuminated Jack Antonoff in a bedazzled sailor suit. Perhaps it’s because this image, the opening image to the show, mirrors Bleachers’s Gone Now album cover, down to the red dot projected onto the curtain. No matter the interpretation, that feeling of comfort is a feeling that sticks with you throughout the show.
A few days before Thanksgiving, Bleachers played a sold-out show at Terminal 5 in New York – the penultimate show of their Gone Now era – Part 2 tour. For Jack, it was a homecoming. A New Jersey native and current New York resident, he expressed his utter joy playing for his city throughout the night. Much of Gone Now is essentially a New York and New Jersey narrative, evidenced by the opening songs, “Dream of Mickey Mantle” and “Goodmorning.” As the residents of the New Jersey neighborhood in “Mickey Mantle” rush home to pray, the Manhattan kids and cops of “Goodmorning” melt in the city heat. Gone Now and Bleachers themselves were meant to be experienced in the city from which they were both born. There’s a camaraderie and respect between New Yorkers that is unique to the city; probably the result of the utter lack of space and subsequent lack of privacy. So much is experienced in public, a notion that’s captured in the contrast between Bleachers’s big, shining production and Antonoff’s deeply personal lyrics.
Gone Now is simultaneously a mental health narrative, one of loss, anxiety, and ultimately, hope. While the whole show was a surprisingly cathartic experience (who doesn’t want to scream “I Wanna Get Better” at the top of their lungs?), the lead up to “Rollercoaster” was especially moving. Telling the story behind a note on his keyboard, Jack asked Bleachers’s saxophonist Evan Smith to intermittently play the note and then sit in silence. “Anxiety is bouncing off the walls in silence,” he said, “but music is like a blanket.” Playing the note again, he asked, “Does that do the same thing it does for me? Do you feel a little safer?” That feeling of comfort that seemed inexplicable before was now wholly clear as the familiar “Oh, hey” that begins “Rollercoaster” began to play over the note. “I would sit in my bed and play things like this,” Jack explained as his voice and the song began to build, “and I thought it was a sad song, but then I began dreaming about taking these songs that I thought were sad, getting a shit ton of people in a room and celebrating them so they’re not that sad anymore.”
If nothing else, Bleachers’s shows are a celebration: of life, of home, of birthdays (“Happy Birthday” was sung and a cake was passed around the pit), and of music. Songs like “Everybody Lost Somebody,” “Let’s Get Married,” “Shadow,” and more were performed with such passion and joy that the audience had no choice but to be fully immersed. Often times that passion can be lopsided, with the audience or the band giving more than the other, but with Bleachers, the love is two-sided. Jack and every member of the band was just as happy to experience the show as every audience member, which is all you can wish for a show.
Written by: Hannah Zwick / @hanzwk / @possiblyhan
Photographed by: Elizabeth Wiltshire / @elizabeth.wiltshire / @HALOCLINING
(photos taken at House of Blues Boston, November 17)