Phoebe Bridgers review – cathartic indie superstar helps her young fans emotionally purge

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The Guardian

You can feel the screams brewing before you hear them. With her smart, self-deprecating take on sadness, Phoebe Bridgers attracts audiences who likely know a thing or two about pent-up emotion. As fans weave and squeeze their way ever-closer to the stage, you get the feeling that this is a show where more than just pint cups will be left behind.

Given the abundance of televised performances and straight-talking interviews that have charted Bridgers’ pandemic-era rise, it’s easy to assume that you might already know exactly what she’s about. Instead, the thrill of her in-the-flesh performance proves quite potent. Rich in contrarian spirit, she breaks the fourth wall early, coming out to introduce support act Sloppy Jane. The shrieks are evangelical, but they turn truly feral when she begins her own set, cloaked in a gown and trademark skeleton ribcage.

From the opening note of Motion Sickness, each song is chanted with school-hymn gusto, swelling even louder on the more defiant punchlines: “I hate your mom (ICU), you know she lived through it to get to this moment” (Graceland Too), “fuck the cops” (Smoke Signals). The latter is particularly exquisite, but is briefly halted for a fainting crowd member, with other fans calling “bingo!” once they are confirmed OK. It’s a Bridgers-worthy dose of dark humour, but quite accurate; swooning has indeed become a recent staple of her shows, an influx of young fans more determined to stay close than they are to stay hydrated.

Burning the house down … Phoebe Bridgers. Photograph: Joel Goodman/The Guardian

To their credit, it’s a show that’s pretty difficult not to lose yourself within. Bridgers’ songwriting is often praised, but her vocal is accomplished to match, trumpet player JJ Kirkpatrick adding cinematic gravitas. Her illustrated storybook screens are also deeply effective, allowing her ghostly themes to wriggle into full being. Ricocheting between teen-boy humour and crushing emotional blows, her chat can be memey (“Look at this bug bite I got on my ass! Anyway, this song’s about death”), while other moments are genuinely poignant, inviting moments of heartfelt connection. Before Chinese Satellite, she reiterates her frustrations over the recent Roe v Wade ruling, while closer I Know the End actively encourages the crowd to yell their loudest, one final moment of emotional purge. Flames lick away at the picturebook house behind her, conjuring chaos and destruction and, ultimately, relief. Bridgers might be just one storyteller, but tonight, she is the guardian of 3,500 different exorcisms, our screams bringing us all one step closer to solace.

July 24, 2022 at 04:48PM Jenessa Williams

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