Bleachers - Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON - December 19th, 2014
December 21st, 2014
Jane: Hello everyone and welcome to my very first concert review. It’s also my first collaborative review as I have the lovely Sam Devotta joining me to help dissect and examine the Bleachers concert we just attended. Sam is a seasoned concert veteran, going to thirty shows this year alone. I went to four. Three were with her. Say hello, Sam.
Sam: Hey! I’m stoked to be here - thank you, Jane, for inviting me along. It’s also my first collaborative review, so this is pretty exciting.
J: So right off the bat, let’s dive in. We arrived at the venue well-carbed (we both had massive grilled cheese sandwiches with kettle chips for dinner) and well-caffeinated (we hit up the Starbucks so we wouldn’t fall into a carb coma). We were forced to eat holiday themed pretzel that Sam had in her bag by the security lady, which was particularly stressful. We then got into the actual club, The Phoenix, and zoomed upstairs where we luckily scored a table so we could ignore the opening act, which we did. Any thoughts on Port Juvee, Sam?
S: First of all, I’m still somewhat annoyed at the cranky security lady - it was very clearly a pretzel (in a sealed package, no less!), but I’ve noticed the Phoenix’s security tends to be less than helpful (I’ve had security stand right in front of me before...don’t even get me started!).
But back to the show. Port Juvee was decent. I always suck at trying to review the opening band because most of the time, I’m just impatient for the main event. They had a generic “alternative rock” feel to them, but they’re Canadian (from Calgary), so yay for Canadian music! I believe you said they sort of sounded like The Strokes, right, Jane?
J: Yeah, they were super Stroke-y, Stroke-lite even. You could see that they were going for some kind of Julian Casablancas vibe but that vibe only really works if you know the songs already. As it was, it was kind of hard to understand them. I, too, was waiting for Bleachers to come on so I was less paying attention, more thinking about when I could get my groove on.
S: I completely agree! It’s so hard to pay attention to the opening band, unless you know who they are going in. And, while they were good, they weren’t so thrilling that I felt the need to focus on them, if you know what I mean.
J: I totally do. So Bleachers finally comes on, opening the show with “Wild Heart,” the opening track to their album Strange Desire and man, they were really incredible. The show really held me from start to finish, so much so that I actually had to go downstairs so I could be closer to the action. I did manage to drag you and your sister down with me (and I’m so glad you came) but the unfortunate thing about bands coming during the winter is that we were all loaded down with heavy coats and bags. Managers, please take note: do not book your bands in Canada during the coldest months of the year. No one wins in these scenarios. Sincerely, Jane and various other concert goers.
S: Oh, I know! It’s the worse. It’s especially hard at a show like this, when you just want to dance and flail and you can’t because you’re holding a bunch of stuff and who knows what’s on the ground - not the ideal place to put a jacket that you intend on wearing again!
J: Ugh, I know, the floors are so icky and yet I feel like I’m being robbed if I have to pay for coat check. But back to the concert. I hate to say it, but I usually feel self-conscious at concerts, never really letting myself be free with the music. I initially was feeling that way at this show but after a while I sort of just said, fuck it, and got really into it. I started jumping around and screaming and it felt so good just to be in the moment, not taking any pictures or videos, but just being right there with the music and the crowd and with you guys.
S: That’s one of my favourite moments of any show - when you completely lose your inhibitions and just let the music take you where you need to be. It’s easy to be self-conscious at shows - for me, I tend to lose that self-consciousness as soon as I hear a song I love, or a song I was looking forward to hearing. Since I knew “I Wanna Get Better” would be the closing song, it took a while to warm up, but they had so much energy that, once we went downstairs, it was hard not to dance and scream.
J: I also thought the sound quality was absolutely incredible. Jack Antonoff sounded amazing live, impressively so. He’s got a huge vocal range, something that I wasn’t sure he’d be able to pull off on stage. I was glad to be proven wrong.
S: Absolutely! Like I told you after the show, for some reason I always expect his voice to be higher pitched than it actually is, so it was a pleasant surprise to hear that he sounds the same live as he does recorded - there were no weird effects to take away from the experience. And, despite their dodgy security, the Phoenix does have excellent acoustics.
J: That they do. Here’s a clip of them playing a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” and absolutely killing it.
J: I think “Rollercoaster” and the finale song of “I Wanna Get Better” were my two favourite parts of the evening. There was so much energy in the room, it was electric. It was great to be a part of it all. Did you have any favourite moments of the night, Sam?
S: I completely agree with you! They were my two favourite songs as well, and I was really looking forward to “I Wanna Get Better”, which was the song that made me start listening to Bleachers in the first place (and the reason I made you come with me to buy the CD!). I also really enjoyed “You’re Still a Mystery” and the way he introduced the band. Loved the saxophone vs guitar moment too!
J: I loved the sax/guitar battle! So epic! Here’s a sample of that from my iPhone.
J: So this was your 30th show of the year. How did it stack up compared to your other concert experiences?
S: It was better than I thought it would be! Which sounds bad, I know, but after listening to the album, I was expecting something more mellow. They completely blew those expectations out of the water with the amount of energy and enthusiasm they had. And it’s always nice to hear bands express their gratitude, especially to their Canadian fans.
Overall, while it wasn’t in my top 10 concerts of the year (I saw a lot of my favourite bands in 2014, so I’m a bit biased), it’s in my top 20!
J: The album does totally come off as more mellow but I’m glad they performed the way that they did. It was a lot of fun to just let loose for a bit. This was definitely one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Jack kept the audience hyped and there was altogether a great vibe in the room. A few too many drunk people for my liking but this is what you get for going to 19+ shows.
S: For sure! Thanks for agreeing to come with us, Jane! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
J: I’m so glad I randomly tweeted that I liked them and you happened to know that they’d be in town! Everything worked out so well. Here’s to live music and many more musical adventures in 2015. Thanks Sam!