PITTSBURGH – You rarely see the audience in Stage AE standing so still.
The sold-out crowd there on Friday was mesmerized by the words floating from Phoebe Bridgers’ lips.
In her biggest Pittsburgh show by far, 27-year-old independent rocker Bridgers wowed with her ethereal vocals; so ethereal and delicate that the crowd did not dare to speak much, nor even to stir, eager to hear every syllable.
Never mastered keyboards, guitars, drums and bass, shedding light on the dark and softly sung ruminations of Bridgers. JJ Patrick of the group added refreshing, blind trumpet flights to songs like “Kyoto”. When needed, the band skillfully shifted the dynamics to bring a stronger, more aggressive impact to Bridgers’ acclaimed lyrics.
“Punisher,” her title song from 2020, began with an almost a cappella song.
Bridgers, in his signature glittery skeleton costume, switched from electric guitar to acoustic guitar on “Halloween,” drastically stopping the song midway through noticing that a fan had passed out in the crowded crowd.
Once reassured that the fallen spectator was okay, Bridgers and the group immediately picked up where they left off, ending “Halloween” and then continuing with the Motorhead / Bowie / The Smiths name “Smoke Signals”, which again kept the crowd enthralled. silence, until, without prompting, fans in unison shouted the line on the youth challenge which includes the queen mother swear words.
Two songs later, Bridgers again briefly stopped halfway when noticing that a fan was passing out.
Maybe someone should shoot a viral TikTok reminding young viewers of the importance of hydrating on humid nights.
Bridgers is an alert player. When a group of fans started singing “Georgia … Georgia”, hoping to hear her 2017 song “Georgia,” the singer instead improvised a few lines from Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise.”
Once again uninvited, fans waved their lit cell phones rhythmically towards “ICU.”
Next came the request “Georgia,” which Bridgers had written as a teenager, admitting then that she thought each of her songs had to end with Bono-sized screams and vocal drama. “Georgia” had a nice touch on Friday when her younger brother, who studied computer science and visual arts at Carnegie Mellon University, stepped out of the scenes to quietly sing a verse with his sister.
At the end of the song, Bridgers joked that she didn’t have CMU-worthy math skills, remembering a time when she was working at her own merchandise stall when she billed 2 incorrectly. $ to a fan. He insulted his intelligence, but Bridgers had the final say when the stoner fan forgot to take with him any item he bought, which Bridgers sold to someone else.
An artist who sells out 5,500-seat venues like Stage AE, and whose 2020 album “Punisher” made the Top 10 of at least 28 national music publications (ranked # 7 by USA Today; # 1 by Esquire), Bridgers no longer need to worry about working on their own merch stand.
She ended her triumphant Pittsburgh set with “I Know The End”, which ends with a strong and intense finale. For a split second, as she ripped her strapped electric guitar from her shoulder, I thought Bridgers might hit that guitar on stage like she did last February on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Alas, she resisted. Although one of his microphones had lights resembling fiber optics, he fell.
Bridgers did an encore with “That Funny Feeling” by Bo Burnham. Even with the Stage AE side door wide open at this point to allow for easy exit, fans stayed put to absorb everything.
Scott Tady is the local entertainment reporter for The Beaver County Times and Ellwood City Ledger. He is easy to reach at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @scottady