Bleachers at MGM Music Hall in Boston, 6/10/24

Concert Reviews

A celebratory night of music sees Jack Antonoff reflecting on Boston venues and career milestones.

Jack Antonoff and Bleachers headlined MGM Music Hall at Fenway on Monday, June 10. Emma Furrier for

Jack Antonoff is booked and busy. When he’s not producing some of the world’s most sought-after artists — Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, and Lorde, most notably — he’s fronting band Bleachers, who just released their self-titled fourth studio album in March. For Antonoff, this past year brought a marriage to actress Margaret Qualley and ample award nominations, atop his countless industry obligations.

While there may be a growing fatigue of his stamp on work with pop music’s elite, it is his live show that reaffirms the mastery of his craft and provides meaningful insight to the man behind some of modern music’s best, and most discussed, work.

There is a vivacious energy on stage that truly comes to the forefront during Bleachers’ live shows, as opposed to some of their studio offerings. Though their sound does not fall flat on recordings, the live show completes the puzzle and emphasizes the power of communal listening experiences, and of course, the frenzy and fortitude of Bleachers’ tight musicianship.

On Monday night, Antonoff proved to Boston fans just why he is the busiest man in music right now. Bleachers returned to Boston, a city they cite as being pivotal to their career, for their “From The Studio To The Stage” tour. After an eccentric and beautifully tender set from opener Samia, Bleachers embarked on a night of unbounded joy and musical revelry.

The set opened with the plaintive “I Am Right on Time,” followed by jaunty single “Modern Girl,” which ignited the venue into a blaze of vibrant energy and sparked the joyous theme of the night. The first three songs of the set came chronologically off the new album’s track listing, including the prolonged opening of “Drug Free America” that played out as the band took the stage.

With an elaborate stage design decorated to resemble a vintage recording studio, Antonoff and company jovially bounced off of platforms and structures that added height and dynamism to the stage. The design provided an interactive musical playground, in which band members jumped from one high-rise to the next. Fully embracing the “From The Studio To The Stage” concept, a live recording “Studio in Use” sign hovered overhead, complete with lights that mimicked studio rigs — a clever nod to Antonoff’s notable day job behind the scenes. For quieter moments, he leaned into the production’s theatrical elements, which found him sitting on the steps pondering and sputtering lyrics like rehearsed dialogue.

Bleachers are a hefty unit: Six members make up the band, with instrumentalists wielding saxophones, dual percussion, keyboard, and guitars. As if their sound wasn’t already entirely filled out, Antonoff’s dad, Rick Antonoff, quietly joined the stage to accompany them on “How Dare You Want More.” The full capacity of MGM bustled with passionate fans: If it weren’t for the sheer volume of the band alone, the venue would still be shaking with the impact of the audience’s exuberant energy.

Jack Antonoff of Bleachers does his best duck walk at MGM Music Hall. – Emma Furrier for

Tracks off of the band’s sophomore LP, “Gone Now,” provided some crowd favorites like “Goodmorning,” “Everybody Lost Somebody,” and “Let’s Get Married.” Saxophone solos were plentiful, ringing out in a wash of brass that served as the catalyst of crowd frenzy, screams and cheers prompting the band to lean in just a bit harder. This showing is an affect taken straight from the E Street Band’s playbook, capped off with an equal dose of Bleachers’ notable pop inflections.

The former fun. guitarist has fully embraced all the nuances of his career and found home in the sounds truest to him. Bleachers is a culmination of the sounds Antonoff grew up on in New Jersey, heavily influenced by the flair of ’80s synths and the grit of heartland rock, à la Bruce Springsteen. In a way, Bleachers is this generation’s answer to the style Springsteen cultivated, rich with horns, percussion and all the gusto of a small town coming-of-age narrative.

Similar to the soundscapes of decades past, Bleachers also boasts a cult-like mentality akin to the devotion of fans of The Boss or, more recently, the stomp and holler craze of the 2010s. With equal passion, fans sing along at unrestrained volumes, diving headfirst into the songs themselves and screaming full-bodied, like an emotional purging. Like the folk-rock stylings that swept the country a few years ago, Bleachers also possesses the boots-on-the-ground fervor that elevates each song into a stature greater than its parts. Dare it be said that Bleachers are The Lumineers of horn-based pop-rock? 

Between lively tracks and some acoustic numbers, Antonoff took time throughout the night to reflect. “The one thing I always feel when I get to Boston is the exact same thing about where I’m from — do not take offense to that,” he told the crowd. “One thing I always feel is that everyone in Boston has this deep, deep, deep pride like no one f—g gets it but us. And I don’t need to get it, I just need to experience it with you …

“When you get to a place where people love their city, it’s one of the best crowds to play for,” he said. “And I’m from one of those places and here’s a song I wrote about one of those places. It’s not about New Jersey and it’s not about falling in love. It’s about loving the place where you’re from and riding for it.” With that, he introduced the 2020 Springsteen collaboration, “Chinatown.”

Zem Audu and Evan Smith brought the horns for Bleachers at MGM Music Hall Monday night. – Emma Furrier for

After an intimate rendition of “Wild Heart,” the band took a moment to reflect on their origins and each Boston venue they played along the way— Antonoff impressively called off each name with ease, recounting venues that no longer exist but that provided a lexicon for Boston music history.

“Here’s my Boston story,” Antonoff began. “When you grow up in New Jersey, the places that you look to play are Boston, Philadelphia and D.C. Boston was always this place where we’d come to do house shows, and then legion hall shows, and then the band would get to play T.T. the Bear, which when someone asks you where you’re playing they don’t believe it’s a real place. A great, great, great venue that I hope is still open.” We’re sorry to break it to you, Jack.

“And then the little room at the Middle East, and then the big room at the Middle East, and then Harpers Ferry, which I think turned into Brighton Music Hall. Let alone the holy grail of one day getting to Paradise. After that, we’re going back again to Axis and Avalon, and then eventually this band came to a point where we got to play right over there at that beautiful House of Blues across the street.

“Boston, I know that drive so well. I know the feeling of driving up to Boston and playing to five people and having the show of your life and driving home and just feeling grateful. I know the feeling of driving home from Boston and five more people came and then 10 and then 50, let alone all of this,” he emotionally recalled before pivoting back to the task at hand. “The start of this band was this song. It wasn’t the first song we released, but it was the first song I wrote for this band and it came out 10 years ago today,” he concluded before launching into fan-favorite and seminal Bleachers single “Rollercoaster,” celebrating its double-digit birthday with all the fanfare it deserves.

Prompting fans to get atop of each other’s shoulders, heads bobbed throughout the mass of the floor as bodies materialized higher and higher, perfectly in time with the music. It’s the closest thing to crowd surfing that this brand of rock instigates, and it served as the perfect display of affection. 

Antonoff’s connection to Boston dates back far before the days of late night drives to play small shows. His parents met while attending Boston University, and the singer fondly reflected on the days of their youth where ’70s recreation led to his mother breaking into the MIT tennis bubble and getting arrested by campus police. Stories and sentiments scattered the remainder of the set, bookending tracks “Don’t Go Dark,” “Self Respect,” and “Ordinary Heaven” — the latter in which he pulled a Taylor Swift and dove off the stage in a grand disappearing act.

The night’s final numbers served as an ode to Bleachers fans, reveling in the spirit that the band encapsulates so well, alongside the community that has been built around it. Swinging single “Tiny Moves” initiated the encore, with lights that refracted across the venue and created animated shapes pulled from Antonoff and the crowd. Greatest hits “I Wanna Get Better,” “Don’t Take the Money,” and “Stop Making This Hurt” rounded out the set in a rush of adrenaline.

Poignantly placed, the night’s concluding track echoed the lyrics, “Say goodbye like you mean it,” as the band marched off the stage in a single file line, reminiscent of a New Orleans second-line parade, with horns blazing in a spirited sendoff. In a fitting close to a celebratory night, Bleachers bid farewell for now to Boston, a city that has quietly played a fundamental role in the band’s existence.

Setlist for Bleachers at MGM Music Hall at Fenway, June 10, 2024:

  • I Am Right on Time
  • Modern Girl
  • Jesus Is Dead
  • How Dare You Want More
  • Wake Me
  • Everybody Lost Somebody
  • Goodmorning
  • I Miss Those Days
  • Call Me After Midnight
  • Me Before You
  • Chinatown
  • Don’t Go Dark
  • Self Respect
  • Wild Heart
  • Rollercoaster
  • Let’s Get Married
  • 91
  • Who I Want You to Love
  • Dream of Mickey Mantle
  • Ordinary Heaven
  • Tiny Moves
  • I Wanna Get Better
  • Don’t Take the Money
  • Stop Making This Hurt

#Bleachers #MGM #Music #Hall #Boston

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