Review: Phoebe Bridgers @ Brixton Academy 28/07/2022
Updated: Jul 31
A lot has changed since Phoebe Bridgers’ last tour cycle in the UK. At the height of the pandemic, the California native released her sophomore album Punisher, which garnered her 4 grammy nominations. Now it’s 2 years later, she’s made it back to our shores to finally tour the album where she’s made appearances opening for The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, at Glastonbury; and finally closing it off with 4 sold out nights at Brixton Academy.
Support for this tour has been rotational, with the LA singer-songwriter taking out a bunch of her friends including Sloppy Jane, Bartees Strange, Charlie Hickey and Harrison Whitford (who also plays guitar as part of Phoebe’s band). On night 3 at Brixton, at around 8pm to the crowd’s surprise Phoebe walks on stage to personally introduce her opener for the night Charlie Hickey, a fellow California singer-songwriter who happens to be signed to her record label Saddest Factory Records.
Charlie warms up the crowd with his charming vocals, accompanied only by his trusty guitar. Despite the lack of a full band, he manages to hold the crowd’s attention, who remain supportive throughout the set as he shifts through a selection of songs from his debut album Nervous at Night. He finishes his set with arguably his most loved tune, Ten Feet Tall, during which he is joined by Phoebe and her drummer and collaborator Marshall Vore, who happens to have a songwriting credit for this tune. A sweet moment to end the set and get the crowd even more amped up for what’s to come.
After what feels like a very long wait, the house lights go down, revealing a backdrop of Phoebe Bridgers’ name in her infamous heavy metal font. Disturbed’s Down With The Sickness blares through the speakers and the band walk on stage, not too dissimilar from a wrestling intro. Then it quiets down, and in a contrast they roll into Motion Sickness, off 2017’s Stranger In The Alps. Currently holding the #1 spot of her popular songs on Spotify, the crowd passionately sings along on the leading line “I have emotional motion sickness, somebody roll the windows down.”
Since the last tour over on this side of the pond, a lot more thought has been put into the performance as a whole. Throughout the set we are taken through a storybook journey, with beautiful illustrations to accompany each song. This of course includes cameos of the little ghosts we’ve come to love from the previous album cycle. Alongside that, stage props, illuminated by the beautiful lights, create a more 3-dimensional feel to the room. You can see how much Phoebe has grown as a performer, and yet how comfortable she still comes across on the stage. Despite all that, she manages to make it feel like an intimate gig each time, even as the crowds become bigger and bigger.
Throughout the night, we are joined by a range of guests. Tour manager Jeroen Vrijhoef croons alongside her in Garden Song, who features on the album’s version of the track. The pairing of their voices is beautiful, one that adds depth to the melancholic track. Charlie Hickey comes back on stage to sing on Chinese Satellite, and again for the iconic album closer or Punisher, I Know The End. For the encore, Phoebe returns on stage solo and introduces up and coming Irish singer Nell Mescal, who happens to be the younger sister of her partner Paul Mescal: “Singing with Nell, makes singing fun for me again.” The duo perform Georgia, with Nell’s voice being a beautiful, welcomed addition. She’s definitely someone to keep on your radar, having just announced her first London headline show later this year.
Before leaving the stage on her penultimate night, Phoebe bids a cheeky “see you tomorrow”, for her final night at performing at the iconic venue. For devoted fans who came for multiple nights, somehow Phoebe has managed to keep interesting with her varying support acts and special guests. Earlier in the week, she had been joined by The 1975’s Matty Healy during I Know The End, the two having previously worked together when she featured on The 1975’s Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America. To make the final night extra special, she debuted a new track, that she asked fans not to record and surprisingly has managed yet to surface online. It’s difficult to play the same venue so many nights in a row and keep it special, yet she has managed to do just that. With new material on the horizon, this brings hope that it won’t be long before she’s back for another UK tour, no doubt playing even bigger venues.
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