Phoebe Bridgers offered a sense of comfort — one more than welcome in times of pandemic-incited uncertainty — in her signature witty and effortless fashion in an Instagram Live concert via Pitchfork on Friday.
Bridgers was donned in black star print pajamas and sunlight beamed through the windows behind her as she glided into a slower, perhaps less polarizing rendition of “Motion Sickness” from her debut album, accompanied only by an electric guitar. In place of the heavy percussion so vital in the studio version of the track, Bridgers opted for subtle head nodding and shifted emphasis to the chorus vocals.
“There are no words in the English language I could scream to drown you out,” she sang as over 8,000 spectators rolled into the live stream.
Next, Bridgers switched her glossy black electric guitar for an acoustic to sing “Garden Song,” the debut single from her forthcoming sophomore album “Punisher,” set to release in June. Spectators sent their own garden of flower emojis in the live stream comment section as Bridgers plucked the guitar and alternated eye contact between the fretboard and the rolling comments.
If ever a melody could, in and of itself, capture the feeling of nostalgia, it was this performance. While the cellphone’s microphone tended to wash out Bridgers’ fingerwork on the guitar strings, her vocals remained smooth and unclockable.
“And the crowd goes wild,” Bridgers joked as she made the sound of a roaring audience into her cupped hands.
As she tuned another acoustic guitar, Bridgers’ nostalgic spirit sustained as she confessed the live stream performance reminded her of her high school days when she’d sing “overly sincere” Elliot Smith covers into her webcam to post on YouTube.
Perhaps in the simplest of melodies of the set, an acoustic version of Bridgers’ latest single “Kyoto” impeccably displayed her sonic versatility. Where the studio track exudes a flourish of percussion and synthesizers, Bridgers needed only her quivering vibratos and a basic guitar chord progression to give an equally — if not more — captivating performance.
Bridgers then paid tribute to the late John Prine, who died last week at 73 after contracting COVID-19. Prine was an iconic singer and songwriter of country, Americana and roots music, chronicled as one of America’s greatest songwriters by Rolling Stone.
“He’s one of the most important people on the planet to me,” Bridgers said before breathing a new life into “Summer’s End,” a breakout track from Prine’s 2018 album “The Tree of Forgiveness.”
Even digitally, Bridgers’ cover signaled a significant energy change; her smooth soprano voice—a stark contrast from Prine’s deep, earthy vocals—seemed to console so many across generational lines who had just lost a hero and legend.
Bridgers ended the concert debuting the final track from the “Punisher” album. “I Know the End,” a haunting ballad of racing thoughts and uncertainty appeared to anthem-ize the loss, confusion and fickleness of the world during COVID-19.
Throughout the entire performance, Bridgers remained candid and genuine through each cracked joke and deep-cut lyric, allowing for a short-lived but all the necessary escape from the unadulterated chaos of pandemic.
Edited by Sophie Stephens | firstname.lastname@example.org