REVIEW: Bleachers at Summerfest – 6/27

Coming in hot off of a major 2013, Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff and Bleachers hit the U.S. Cellular Connections stage on Friday night to an overwhelming reaction. The crowd was smaller than Fun’s previous performance at the Miller Lite Oasis in 2012, but nevertheless, they were ready for a great show from a band that they really hadn’t heard much from. Single “I Wanna Get Better” is already a hit, and follow up track “Shadow” was recently released as a single, but aside from that, Bleachers hasn’t put out any other official releases, until their upcoming debut album, “Strange Desire”, hits stores on July 15th.

Antonoff hit the stage with his trademark baseball cap and a vintage jacket, looking a bit like a clone of Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, without as many guitars. Armed with two synthesizer players and two drummers behind him, the group launched into a slew of rhythm section heavy songs, giving us a good feel for what “Strange Desire” will sound like. There was an overwhelming 80s feel that Bleachers brought to Milwaukee, with a combination of live and electronic percussion, blending synths, and at one point, a saxophone solo that made the show feel like you were watching Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The house PA played Prince and James Brown before the show, and that actually turned out to be some solid foreshadowing for the band’s sound. They were a blend of influential music; at times sounding like Prince, at times sounding like new wave, and everywhere in between. But definitely a strong delivery from a band that is so new.

Antonoff aimed to please on stage, and for the crowd on Friday night, he did just that. Several times, he reiterated that he thought Summerfest was the best effing music festival on the planet, and that they would be back in Milwaukee. With a limited catalog available, a spot-on cover of Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” got the crowd involved, even if only a small portion of the crowd (myself included) had heard the original. The rest of the night, though, was original music from Strange Desire, carrying the same catchy hooks and well crafted musicianship that Antonoff has had success with in his other bands. The night closed with “I Wanna Get Better” and no encore, because Antonoff stated that they simply “have no more songs left”. Still, Bleachers delivered a fun, engaging 50 minute performance, and the promise of a great album to be released in the near future.

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