Music journalists are gentle things. They don’t want to explore the exposure of the standing ticketed area. Staying far away from feral fans screeching and waving as Phoebe Bridgers walks onto the stage is not just preferable, but necessary to avoid puncturing the eardrums. But what an atmosphere it is, to watch it from above. Right in the heavens is the place to be. That’s where the scene comes whole. With well over three thousand screaming fans swaying to the indie-folk, chamber pop of Bridgers, it is almost impossible not to be lost in it. The sea of hands waving for Scott Street, the yells of adoration from a sea of fans who have waited patiently for quite some time to see Bridgers perform at Manchester’s O2 Apollo on Saturday night, it’s intoxicating.
That intensity is something special. A cathartic release for an artist finally bringing The Reunion Tour to the UK, two years after the release of Punisher. It marks a freeing moment for fans, too, who have waited and waited to hear Punisher, a lockdown highlight from near-on two years ago, performed live and with the same passion Bridgers brings to her heavy-hitting sophomore album. No greater an example of that need to hear new tracks can be found than the very opening of the show. Motion Sickness leads into a hook for DVD Menu without so much as a word to the audience. Little is said until much later into the show. Bridgers takes the time to care not just for the audience, but what she says to them, and how she conveys it.
More than a few artists are keen to speak with and engage the audience with thoughts in-between songs as a way of shortening the gap for guitarists to switch instruments or for stagehands to double-check a potential issue. No time for that on The Reunion Tour, which runs like a well-oiled machine, the pace of which is only matched by the energy of the artist and band on stage. An electric performance from the backing group, occasional snippets of conversation and back-and-forth between the touring group cut through the screaming fans. Any great gig will focus not just on that and the music, but what surrounds it. Excellent set design, cowboy hats and a real sense of showmanship from those behind Bridgers elevate the Punisher-heavy performance that, thankfully, includes Garden Song, Kyoto and a resounding strong performance of Graceland Too.
Well worth the wait for many on the stage and off of it, Bridgers’ first of two performances at the Manchester O2 Apollo will come as a sweet release for everyone in attendance. Artists near and far experienced delays and doubts over the future of their releases because of a halt for festivals and gigs. A similar feeling for Sam Fender no doubt, whose rise and rise felt like it was ready to burst last year on the release of Seventeen Going Under. It feels the same for Bridgers, whose debut album set light on what she would soon achieve with Punisher. Two years on from the release of that album and Bridgers, along with her growing number of fans, are now reaping the rewards with endearing, personable and intimate shows in great venues around the world.