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Bleachers uses past to connect with future

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Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff brings the energy at their North Park show on Sept. 27.

Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff brings the energy at their North Park show on Sept. 27.

Photo by Julianna Ress

Photo by Julianna Ress

Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff brings the energy at their North Park show on Sept. 27.

by Julianna Ress, Senior Staff Writer

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Bleachers opened its show at the Observatory North Park on Wednesday, Sept. 27 with the first song on its most recent record “Gone Now,” called “Dream of Mickey Mantle”— the song title alone establishing the nostalgia that dictates frontman Jack Antonoff’s brand of pop.

Antonoff has had a busy year.

Besides “Gone Now’s” release in June, he co-executive produced Lorde’s critically praised break-up record “Melodrama,” and has credits on new songs from St. Vincent and P!nk.

Not to mention his Right Said Fred-interpolated production on Taylor Swift’s divisive new single “Look What You Made Me Do,” and probably at least a couple more credits on her upcoming “Reputation.”

While flashes of Antonoff’s neon-tinged world are apparent in these collaborations, the 1980s-inspired crescendos and blissful youth are front and center in his personal work with Bleachers.

The 33-year-old took the instrument-riddled stage, which included two drum sets, several keyboards and a rack of saxophones, clad in the decorated sailor attire he poses in on the “Gone Now” cover, only to trade it for a vintage, color-blocked jacket after the first song.

After a couple of songs from Bleachers’ 2014 record “Strange Desire,” Antonoff lit the stage up with the return to “Gone Now” tracks, including the saxophone-driven “Everybody Lost Somebody” and the Carly Rae Jepsen-assisted “Hate That You Know Me.”

The band’s use of ’80s nostalgia to relate to its young fans rather than separate itself from them is unique, and especially effective among a generation with access to past culture at its fingertips.

This was especially evident in the performance of the “Gone Now” standout brand-appropriately titled “I Miss Those Days.”

“We talk about getting older / But there’s so much we haven’t done yet,” the crowd sang in unison with Antonoff. “Hey, I know I was lost but I miss those days.”

“His music makes me feel like I’m in an ’80s high school movie,” television, film and media junior, Michael Abshear, said of the New Jersey musician. “It makes me nostalgic for a time I wasn’t even alive during.”

Though bombastically delivered, Bleachers’ music often explores personal themes, shouting lyrics like, “Sometimes I hate that you know me so well / Some days I wish that I wasn’t myself” with the utmost triumph that bring its larger than life music back down to Earth.

This, combined with Antonoff’s approachable charm, was on display when he had the crowd sing “Happy Birthday” to a member of the band, then handing a cake to the front row which added another layer of connection between him and his fans.

Personal themes and nostalgia culminated in the musician’s stripped down, reflective performance of Fun.’s “Carry On,” looking back on his time as a member in the now disbanded pop act.

As the set rounded out, the band went into a Bruce Springsteen-esque interlude in which each band member extensively soloed on their respective instruments over the celebratory cheers from the audience.

The night ended with the two biggest Bleachers hits, “Strange Desire’s,” “I Wanna Get Better,” and “Gone Now’s” “Don’t Take the Money,” with Antonoff stepping into the crowd during the former.

Shouts of “You steal the air out of my lungs, you make me feel it!” filled the room during the performance of the latter, ending the night with pure electricity, and the band at its most alive.

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