About 5,000 Phoebe Bridgers fans — many while scream-singing through tears — gathered in Boston Seaport to watch the artist’s Reunion Tour at Leader Bank Pavilion on Monday night, the second night of her stop in Boston.
Bridgers’s most recent album, “Punisher,” was released during the initial COVID-19 lockdown last year on June 18. Now, she is finally taking her 11-track, deeply personal and emotional second studio album on the road.
Before even scanning their tickets, fans were required to show proof of vaccination on their way into the venue.
MUNA — an electronic-pop Los Angeles-based queer band that just recently signed to Bridgers’ record label, Saddest Factory Records — opened for Bridgers during the shows.
The trio was the perfect opener to inject energy into the crowd. Many audience members seemed to be absorbing the music instead of singing along, but that didn’t mean they weren’t enjoying themselves.
After playing a range of songs from their discography — from the heartbreakingly danceable “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” to the slower “Everything” — MUNA had a surprise for the audience.
Their penultimate track was their new hit “Silk Chiffon” — their Sept. 7 irresistibly catchy track featuring Bridgers. In the show, Bridgers herself popped in to make a quick appearance before her set to sing her verse — and the crowd went crazy the second the first chord was struck.
Before concluding their set, MUNA lead singer and co-producer Katie Gavin gave a shout-out to Bridgers for giving the band the opportunity to perform with her — calling her “our father, Phoebe Bridgers.”
When Bridgers finally came out for her own set after a brief break, the roar of the crowd’s excitement was deafening. Not one to be overly showy, Bridgers waited for the applause to die down and simply greeted the crowd with a nonchalant “Yo.”
Bridgers’ setlist consisted of the album “Punisher” in its entirety. She sang it in the original order of the album, with some older songs sandwiched in between.
She began the show, however, with her top-hit “Motion Sickness” from her first album “Stranger in the Alps.” This more upbeat but still emotionally saturated song for Bridgers was a perfect opener to get everyone engaged.
In between uproarious cheering and emotional ballads such as “Moon Song” and “Savior Complex,” Bridgers told quick snap-shot anecdotes of the songs’ origins — many of them about mental health and parental struggles — and how far she’s come in her career.
The set design for the show utilized colorful lighting and gobos to project designs on the white awning of the amphitheater without including many other pieces. Bridgers kept the instrumentation simple, even her more instrumental songs like “Kyoto” only needed a few musicians, and the set’s simplicity reflected that.
Central to this set was a backdrop with rotating graphics that depicted “Punisher” as a storybook. Each song had a unique visual in the style of a pop-up book that unfolded and animated behind the band.
From the graphic of saltines on a carpet mirroring the lyrics of “Graceland Too” to the moon rising as Bridgers sang “Moon Song,” the simple illustrations enriched the already rich storytelling of Bridgers’ lyrics and added to her simple charm.
During her final song of the main set and the finale of “Punisher”— “I Know the End” — the backdrop showed a “haunted house with a picket fence,” a reference from the song, slowly burning down behind the band. The song references an apocalyptic feeling, Bridgers’ told Genius, that she gets when driving up the Northern California coastline and the existential reflection of having repeated the drive through so many stages of life.
At the end of this song, there are piercing and raw screams in the recording. The audience joined in to vent out all of its frustration and screamed right along with Bridgers — making for a beautiful, and incredibly loud, moment of release.
Bridgers also performed a one-song encore of comedian Bo Burnham’s “That Funny Feeling” from his 2021 Netflix special “Inside.” There seemed to be significant overlap between the fan bases of the two artists that night, as the audience sang along to every word of the song.
I was overall pleasantly surprised by the energy of this concert. Phoebe Bridgers is my go-to artist when I need to cry to music, so I worried that the large venue wouldn’t lend itself to the intimate feeling that “Punisher” has.
I am so glad that expectation was wrong. A young and engaged audience rounded out what could have been a downer of a show and made it a lively and energetic appreciation of Bridgers’ music.
Never underestimate the power of simplicity and emotion to deliver an unforgettable performance, which the Phoebe Bridgers Reunion tour did expertly. Bridgers deserves all the recent acclaim she has garnered for pulling this off.