Bleachers, Carly Rae Jepson Embrace The '80s at Jacobs Pavilion

A lovely summer night saw a double bill on the shores of the Cuyahoga

click to enlarge Bleachers, Carly Rae Jepson Embrace The '80s at Jacobs Pavilion
Photo by Eric Heisig

One of the most memorable moments during Wednesday night’s heavily choreographed Bleachers/Carly Rae Jepsen concert happened after the two stars joined up for a song.

Bleachers' leader Jack Antonoff blanked on the lyrics to his song “Shadow,” paused, collected himself, and restarted right where they left off. It was in some ways a forgettable blip in what was more than three hours of solid entertainment at Jacobs Pavilion, but it highlighted something important: neither artist was operating on autopilot.

Such dedication is not something audiences should take for granted.

The double bill was a success for that reason, as well as for the music itself: loud and poppy with a heaping of the sounds of the 1980s and a dollop of brains. Both artists approached these tenets in very different ways that still complemented each other's sets.

For dance-pop singer Jepsen, this meant leaning heavily into synthesizers and melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on early Whitney Houston albums. Kicking off her “So Nice” tour with an elaborate stage setup, the Canadian artist danced, jumped and belted her way through her 90-minute, 23-song set.

She played the hits, deep cuts and at least one yet-to-be-released song.

And yes, the casual fans of the dance-pop queen got their “Call Me Maybe,” but Jepsen has long proved she is more than the 2012 smash. The adoring crowd shouted along to every word of “When I Needed You,” “I Really Like You,” and others, and she responded with a slick production that looked like it left nothing to chance.

Bleachers, meanwhile, was in full Bruce Springsteen mode, with Antonoff seemingly choreographing it to make every move look spontaneous.

click to enlarge Bleachers, Carly Rae Jepson Embrace The '80s at Jacobs Pavilion
Photo by Eric Heisig

But the homage to his fellow New Jersey native didn’t stop there. The megaproducer/collaborator to the stars mixed in his inherent goofy demeanor with some faux-macho-ness. Antonoff also wore tight jeans and white tank top for a getup that wouldn’t look out of place on the “Born in the USA” tour in 1984. There were also saxophones galore courtesy of two of the five musicians backing him.

He even busted out a few seemingly-improvised verses set to Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl,” a song Springsteen has frequently covered over the past four decades.

I could go on with the comparisons (I really did leave out more), but luckily the show was not just slavish imitation. His 80-minute set wouldn’t have worked if Antonoff didn’t have the songs to back it up. And he mostly did.

From the early set highlight “How Dare You Want More” to the moody “Rollercoaster” to the celebratory “I Wanna Get Better,” he let loose in a way only hinted at on his studio recordings.

Sometimes that led to sloppy moments like on “Shadow.” But such moments were less detracting than endearing, proof that while some music allows performers to simply go through the motions, an artist almost always benefits from focusing on each song as it comes at them.
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