Bleachers might just be the most fun live band in the world. There’s a lot of competition for that title on the Governors Ball line-up this year, let alone the rest of the globe, but Jack Antonoff and his cohorts definitely have the edge when it comes to lifting you up and showing you a good time. For someone whose music is so imbued with loss, that might come as a surprise. But that would be to ignore Antonoff’s innate ability to craft songs that are both full of some of the most exciting emotions you can feel and make you want to jump around and dance and throw your arms around anyone within a 50 foot radius of you.
There’s a unifying quality to Bleachers’ live shows that make it feel like you’re at a particularly joyous church service, all revelling in the same divine experience, with the frontman acting as an infectiously passionate mediator between a higher being (in this case the music) and you. Today (June 2), Antonoff’s travelling house of worship pulls up at Governors Ball on Randall’s Island, a lump of land between Manhattan and Queens, for a celebratory ceremony. ‘Gone Now’, his second album under the Bleachers moniker, has just been released and he’s clearly in the mood for toasting that.
From the second he steps on stage with his bandmates to the moment he leaves again, his face is painted with a broad grin and he pours all his energy into making his songs sound even more heart-poundingly massive than they do on record, which is no small feat. Opener ‘Shadow’ sounds like Springsteen gone tropical under the blazing New York sun, while ‘Everybody Lost Somebody’, with its lilting sax and grand undercurrents, is the perfect anthem for when you’re lost and lonely, like Antonoff giving a pep talk that’s filled with urgency and euphoria.
Those two feelings build throughout the set, as if this is the last chance on earth to gather and celebrate life, music and Bleachers. Its propelled by the band’s mastermind and his endearing enthusiasm, bounding around stage in a baseball vest and jeans, throwing a web of joy over the crowd in front of him. During the glittering pop of ‘Rollercoaster’, he steps up to the mic and yells “Gov Ball, Gov Ball, fucking give me everything!” There isn’t really any other option but to do just that.
His second album may have only just come out, but the songs included in today’s set from it already sound like well-worn favourites – comfortingly familiar, but still giving you that head rush of excitement as when you first heard them. ‘I Miss Those Days’ bounces on a perky piano line, an ode to formative days, and ‘Hate That You Know Me’ sounds even more like a contender for one of 2017’s best songs so far booming out of the Gov Ball NYC stage’s PA. “I’m so fucking glad to be here with you guys,” Antonoff tells the crowd after. ‘Don’t Take The Money’ follows and suddenly all you can see is arms in the air and bodies moving without inhibitions.
Antonoff’s verve extends beyond the songs too. When he takes time to introduce his band during ‘You’re Still A Mystery’, giving each time to individually showcase their talents, he looks exceedingly thrilled to be surrounded by these people. His pure awe stops it from veering into cheesy, indulgent territory, breathlessly bigging up each member like a wide-eyed hype man.
By the time closer ‘I Wanna Get Better’ rolls around, Antonoff truly has Gov Ball in the palm of his hand. Twice during that last song the crowd surges forward as if everyone simultaneously has the need to be as close to him as possible. It’s no surprise, really – his set today proves him to be both the perfect therapy for all the ills life can throw at you and the perfect party provider. All hail Bleachers.