WHO: Charli XCX, Bleachers
WHERE: The Fillmore
WHEN: Tuesday, August 11
The Fillmore got a double dose of rockstar reverence and teenage attitude Tuesday night, when Bleachers and Charli XCX performed sets as part of their co-headliner “Charli and Jack Do America" tour. Though ultimately a somewhat cookie cutter experience, Bleachers, also known as Fun guitarist Jack Antonoff and Charlotte Aitchison, a.k.a Charli XCX, brought loads of appreciation for American rock and the teenage experience — a fact that’s interesting, since they encountered the source material in opposite ways. Antonoff is from Bergenfield, New Jersey, and as you might suspect, the Bleachers set was all about feel-good arena rock. Aitchison, on the other hand, is from Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, and came to love the American teenager experience from afar. The fact that she’s a transplant explained some of the more fantastical elements of her performance: for instance, she seemed to think track stars flip people off way more than they actually do. This strange mix of preppy and punk, worked, though, especially when presented alongside Jack: Charli was the subversive answer to Jack’s true blue heart, and together they delivered their different yet complementary visions of what it means to be a rock star in the US of A.
Up first was Bleachers. Channeling the grandiosity of U2 in a varsity letter jacket, Antonoff took the stage with his band, which included two drummers and a saxophone player, and blazed through the anthemic rock songs of his 2014 album Strange Desire. Reaching the first energetic peak with “Wild Heart,” Antonoff sang with conviction lines that were made to sing along to: “Well everything has changed and now it’s only you that matters.” The song marked the first of many guitar solos, during which Antonoff emanated a mix of righteousness and earnestness indicative of someone who spent a lot of time practicing his rocker stance with Springsteen blaring as a kid.
By the time they slowed things down for “Wake Me,” with Antonoff musing, “And hey, I can’t believe I captured your heart...If you’re lonely lonely lonely wake me,” it was clear that Bleachers shoots for the stars with the ballads as well as the anthems. There was an interlude of sorts with the next song, a cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams.” This version was more cheerful than the wistful, haunting original, with Antonoff replacing Dolores O’Riordan’s yodeling parts with guitar solos. He followed this with a return to the Springsteen overtones, with “Rollercoaster,” a song about summer love and racing down a dirt road.
The second to last song Bleachers played was a cover of Kanye West’s “Only One,” which made this blogger squeamish but definitely fit with Antonoff’s whole “go big or go home, and do it with heart,” thing. He closed with the ode to self-improvement “I Wanna Get Better,” which is a really refreshing chorus to hear a crowd of people chanting.
Next came Charli XCX. Aitchison hit the ground running, opening with the title track from her album Sucker. The stage looked like the cover of Sucker, too, with a larger-than-life heart-shaped candy in front of a wall of pink streamers. In a red jersey with sequined silver lettering that read “Class of ‘78,” running shorts and knee-high socks, she radiated school-girl sass. “You said you wanna bang. Well, fuck you sucker!” And so began a set of irreverent, fist-pumping pop songs, pop star idolizing and so, so much pink and red.
Things got sillier from there. While her all-girl band banged away on real instruments, Aitchison strummed a fake blow-up guitar during their second song, the kiss-off “Breaking Up.” The sight brought Antonoff back to mind along with the idea that stardom comes to kids in bedrooms long before there’s any stage. It also rang home the sentiment that Aitchison does whatever the fuck she wants.
She took a break from the Sucker arsenal early on and played Icona Pop’s breakout hit “I Love It,” a song that Aitchison actually wrote and gave to the Swedish duo. Then came “Famous,” pre-Sucker gem “Superlove,” and “Doin’ It,” the latter of which she told the crowd is her favorite song on the album. The energy reached a peak with the raucous, Ramones-inspired “London Queen” and “Break the Rules,” at which point Aitchison was full-body dancing, limbs swinging and sometimes punching. She alternated between these chaotic movements and a wide-legged stance, all young, headstrong confidence.
Second-to-last came the somewhat obligatory “Fancy,” with Aitchison performing both hers and Iggy Azalea’s parts. She closed with “Boom Clap,” the track that appeared on the soundtrack of The Fault In Our Stars and probably the most teeny-bopper song of the bunch.
And the encore was… there was no encore! It was 10:30 and the kids had to get home. Although a bit anti-climactic, the Charli and Jack Do America Tour was just the type of feel-good experience I hoped it would be. I think these kids are gonna make it.