This summer’s Charli and Jack Do America Tour was a great idea. “We’ve been talking about this for years,” said Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff on Tuesday at the Cabooze. Together, Bleachers and Charli XCX are crossing the United States, and last night's Minneapolis installment brought lots of fun to the Cabooze. Throughout the night, the music shimmered, the covers surprised, and the crowd kept on dancing.
Pop-rock group Bleachers was founded by Jack Antonoff, who’s spent years writing songs and playing guitar for fun (the Grammy-winners best known for “We Are Young”). As a lead singer, he displayed tons of energy, and his band was right there with him. Evan Smith even played a saxophone solo atop guitarist Mikey Hart’s shoulders.
Bleachers has been hailed as this generation’s reincarnation of the ‘80s, and I definitely heard Simple Minds and A-ha speaking through tracks from debut LP Strange Desire. Oddly enough, Antonoff also channeled Matt Berninger, the National’s frontman, on selected songs. “You’re Still a Mystery” and especially “Reckless Love” show what Berninger’s band might have sounded like if they made music three decades ago.
Bleachers did play one unfinished new song, titled “Shadow of the City.” In fact, it shares a name with Antonoff’s first music festival, which will take New Jersey on Sept. 19. “The city” in the title is New York, and he’s trying to use the festival to amplify his home state’s musical voice. Charli and rising MC Vic Mensa will perform, among others. Back in Minneapolis, Antonoff enjoyed “Shadow of the City”’s warm reception, saying, “This is exactly what I imagined while writing this song.”
After Bleachers, co-headliner Charli XCX combined pop and punk in an irreverent, lustful performance of Sucker songs and other hits. Still feeling hungover from some extreme birthday celebrations (she turned 23 on Aug. 2), the U.K. pop star best know for guesting on Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" apologized for her “awful voice.” But the fact is vocals were always her weak point; critics often compare her to a cheerleader, but not because she exudes positive energy or likes the idea of “cool.” She yells her lyrics and struggles to hit high notes live.
However, I somehow didn’t care about the vocals. I was too busy shouting choruses right along with her; I watched her all-girl backing band shred GTA’s remix of “Fancy” and jumped during defiant anthem “Break the Rules.” Charli entertained the whole night long, even bringing out an inflatable guitar and pretending to play on “Breaking Up.” During ode to wealth “Gold Coins,” she lifted her skirt and let a fan shove a dollar into her underwear.
Around the middle of her set, she played three songs that didn’t belong on either of her LPs — last year's Sucker or 2013's True Romance. For one, she covered a Swedish punk band, playing Snuffed By the Yakuza’s “Allergic to Love.” (The song’s inclusion had to be a nod to the punkish album she recorded in Sweden ... and subsequently threw out before recording Sucker). Charli also played “SuperLove” and “Mow That Lawn,” both original songs with no album home. The former is catchy pop goodness that the singer released as a single, and the latter is an unreleased, bassy cut (presumably from that punk record) that saw her writhing on the floor.
Amid all the random singles (see: the remixed version of “Fancy,” plus Icona Pop’s “I Love It”) and unreleased songs, tracks from True Romance fell off the setlist. One cut from the debut album made it in — she introduced “old song” “Grins” near the end of the show. But standbys “Lock You Up,” “You (Ha Ha Ha),” and “Nuclear Seasons” never surfaced. In the end, Charli also omitted an encore. It didn’t matter how fun her first 16 songs were; as the audience shuffled out after “Boom Clap,” we all felt a little like suckers.
Critic’s bias: Going into the show, I liked BØRNS and had barely listened to Bleachers. Charli opened for a Marina and the Diamonds show I saw two years ago at the Skyway, but I actually disliked her set. Since then, I’ve gotten more into her music, and she’s added some killer band members.
The crowd: Filled with fans who sang “Party In the U.S.A.” before the show but ignored “I Would Die 4 U.” That said, there were more people past their mid-twenties than I expected.
Overheard in the crowd: “No more sexual behavior,” joked one fan to a friend. The same girl screamed, “We’re flirting!” after Charli’s (hot) guitarist smiled and nodded at her.
Notes on the opener: Seven hours before he was supposed to take the stage, pop artist BØRNS tweeted that he wouldn’t play in Minneapolis. His message offered a brief apology but no reason for the change.
Random notebook dump: With slight embarrassment, I will share my excited note, “1994 — birth year!” from when Antonoff mentioned the year “Dreams” dropped. The Cranberries’ song and I are the same age.
Like a River Runs
Dreams (Cranberries cover)
Shadow of the City (new song)
You’re Still a Mystery
Only One (Kanye West cover)
I Wanna Get Better
I Love It
Need Ur Love
Allergic to Love (Snuffed By the Yakuza cover)
Mow That Lawn
Body of My Own
Break the Rules
Fancy (GTA Remix)