This past Monday, in the second of two sold-out shows this Stone Pony Summer Stage season, singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers made an everlasting mark with an unforgettable performance…that is if you were fast enough to get tickets — they sold out minutes after going on sale.
I remember driving by the Pony around 11 pm Sunday night. I was pleasantly surprised as I witnessed about a dozen people already getting cozy in line. That’s not something you see often at this venue. By 1 pm the next day, 5 hours before the gates opened (and what seemed like the hottest day of the year so far), hundreds of people wrapped around the building, anxiously waiting to get a decent view of their favorite artist. Bridgers could easily sell out another show here — probably more — which was evident by the something hundred more fans getting ready to listen in from the boardwalk.
Although it seemed like it, this wasn’t Bridgers’ Asbury Park debut. “Last time we were here, we played a bowling alley,” she commented on her performance 4 years prior at Asbury Lanes just down a couple of blocks. That show was just a year after the release of her universally acclaimed debut studio album Stranger in the Alps, containing the track “Motion Sickness,” Bridgers’ most critically and commercially successful song to date.
As Bridgers gained more and more popularity within the indie alternative crowd over the past couple of years, fans patiently awaited her return to Asbury Park — this time in celebration of Punisher, her sophomore LP which also led to her first-ever Grammy nominations. Her setlist consisted of 18 total songs, playing all 11 tracks off of Punisher as well as some favorites from Stranger in the Alps. To much acclaim, Bridgers chose to perform a rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Stolen Car” — which she seamlessly blended into her encore set.
This 27-year-old’s overall performance for 3,000 people was visually and audibly astonishing — captivating the young fans (and their parents) in the crowd. I have never seen a more beautiful stage set up at this venue. A large video panel filled the back wall with mesmerizing, storybook-like scenes, each one reflecting a different story for each song. Backing up Bridgers’ lovely singing and guitar strumming was a full band, all wearing matching skeleton costumes. Many new, premature fans were actually shocked to find that this calming indie artist tours with a live band equipped with chilling horns, booming drums, and blazing electric guitar. However, any die-hard fan would know that this is typical of her overall sound, especially during her last number “I Know the End” — my personal favorite of hers. Not only does this track conclude the album with urgency, but it also ended Monday night with satisfaction as she dynamically built up to a full, apocalyptic arrangement of emotional yet commanding noise. If Phoebe Bridgers knows how to do one thing it’s how to truly resonate with her fans — I definitely wasn’t the only one brought to tears.
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