Concert Review: Bleachers at State Theatre, St. Petersburg

A look back at the Wed., March 25 show

Back to the Bay area for a third time since October, Bleachers took to St. Pete’s State Theatre for a beast of a show on Wednesday night. Culling tracks off his only LP, Strange Desire, fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff captivated a packed house as he led his multi-instrumental troupe like an '80s-era Bruce Springsteen, sleeveless denim shirt and all.

You could call their New Wave sound kind of schlock-y, and it’s understandable, but beneath the hyper-colored surfaces, these are really just airtight and impassioned pop songs, which make for the perfect sonic playground in a live setting.

Walking out to the “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” from Annie (what?), Bleachers waste no time as they laid into the rolling tom-drums and delayed string plucks of “Like a River.” It sounded huge, almost U2-like, and came to life as Antonoff dutifully moved like it was the first time he’d ever played this to an audience.

Except it’s the bajillionth, which made it all the more commendable when him and his crew — a series of dudes switching between two keyboards, two drum sets, guitars and more — kept the impassioned energy up for each track. With only one LP thus far, the song selection was limited, but they gave each one, from “Roller Coaster” to “Wild Heart” and “Wake Me,” nuanced care, making sure every glittery note got its fair share in the grandiose display of the whole thing.

And, when they ventured off course, like when they played a bang-on cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” you got the sense that these guys weren’t using their whole retro-sound thing as an ironic attention-grabber, but more as a vehicle to give their younger-skewed audience a new perspective on what great pop music has been, and can be today.

Closing out with “You’re Still a Mystery," they did the whole break-the-song-down-and-introduce-each-band-member solo thing, before a wild saxophone appeared. From then through the end, it was a sugar-sweet flurry of “whoah-ohh” chants from the audience, blistering guitar solos and rollicking drums till the lights faded. Returning for an acoustic take on his former band Steel Train’s “Bullet," Antonoff told a truly endearing story about why he loved St. Pete so much before the rest of the band returned for a final encore run of their hit, “I Wanna Get Better."

If Wednesday proved anything, it’s that Bleachers can command a stage like few others, all while having an infectiously good time doing it. With fun. now likely defunct, it looks like these guys have a bright and focused road ahead.

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