Music, News, Review

Bleachers @ The Ritz review – New Jersey’s finest find a home from home in Manchester

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Featured image and gallery: Georgina Hurdsfield

Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff is often heard yet seldom seen. The 39-year-old New Jerseyan is the veiled mastermind behind some of the most acclaimed pop albums of the last decade, a recurring collaborator with Taylor Swift, Lorde and The 1975. Antonoff’s standalone project, Bleachers, is fast emerging as one of the most exciting acts from North America. What started as a one man homage to 1980s pop culture has grown to spearhead a new era of indie pop, spanning four studio albums. 

Antonoff commands the attention of the beaming spotlight. He front-loads the set with a selection of songs from the band’s self-titled fourth studio album, released earlier this month. ‘Modern Girl’ shines with a familiar Springsteen sheen, jam packed with a pompous array of saxophone solos. An ensuing rendition of ‘Jesus is Dead’ showcases Bleachers’ astounding musicianship, bringing to life some of the latest LP’s finer details. Saxophonists Zem Audu and Evan Smith dovetail delightfully atop Antonoff’s signature drawl, the frontman flying across the stage to conduct his frenzied orchestra. 

Alongside their new material, Bleachers’ discography boasts an impressive back catalogue. The anthemic ‘Rollercoaster’ spurs on some members of the crowd to take to their friends’ shoulders, encouraged gleefully by Antonoff. ‘I Wanna Get Better’ shimmers with optimism, while ‘Goodmorning’ revels in cinematic melancholia. For a lively performance of ‘How Dare You Want More’, Jack’s father Ricky Antonoff accompanies the sextet on stage, duetting on vocals with bassist Mikey Freedom Hart. 

In a moment of brief reprieve from the rip-roaring energy, Antonoff takes up an acoustic guitar for a medley of audience requests. To the delight of the fans adorning the barrier at the foot of the stage, he plays a tour debut of ‘Don’t Go Dark’, joined by the complementary tones of Smith on saxophone throughout the choruses. The remainder of the band watch on from the wings before rejoining Antonoff for ‘You’re Still a Mystery’.

As curfew looms ever closer, Bleachers round out the set with several contenders for their crowning jewel. ‘Stop Making This Hurt’ from the 2021 album Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night sees Antonoff take up a bass, further testament to the frontman’s versatility. ‘Don’t Take the Money’ is a triumphant closing statement that pulsates with a singalong chorus, igniting hysteria on stage and among the audience. 

Antonoff is reluctant to abide by the curtain call, expressing his unrelenting adoration. In an Instagram post the following day, the band continue to heap praise on Manchester; Bleachers have found themselves a new home away from home. 

About the author / 

George Wainwright

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