Less than an hour away (depending on traffic) from the Pasadena Farmers Market where she used to busk, Phoebe Bridgers stepped onto the Greek Theatre for the first of two sold-out nights like the returning hometown hero she was. Dressed in what’s become their official-unofficial uniform, the skeletal bodies of Bridgers and her band were a collection of ghostly figures divining all the potent doldrums of her knockabout confessionals. Opening with the rollicking depressions of “Motion Sickness,” a visceral song that tracks Bridger’s exceptional talent/burden for penning stirring anthems pulled from her own deep wounds.
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She then slipped into her sophomore album Punisher, slyly playing the album in its entirety with the occasional interlude of past sobbing-strummers in “Smoke Signals” and “Funeral.” Her cavernous soundscapes, sustained sometimes only by a few precise plucks of a guitar and Bridgers’ own heavy-souled lyricism (“Garden Song”) and at others propelled by driving bass-rumblings and clarion horn-calls (“Kyoto”), found ardent amplification on the Greek Theatre stage. The orchestral textures that surround her eviscerating words are seldom relegated to the background — with songs like “Savior Complex” and “I Know the End” echoing in resounding commiseration.
Charlie Hickey opened the night for Bridgers — whom he caught the attention of at 13-years-old when he covered one of her songs. Playing from his debut Count the Stairs EP, Hickey shoulders his guitar to scrape away at the existential angst that’s already built up within him. Like Bridgers, his songs meander through gutting melancholias, comprised as they are of his dreamy warbles and the distorted whine of scattered guitars.