When he's on stage with his band instead of in the studio with some of pop music's biggest names, Jack Antonoff apparently doesn't have an off switch.
The Grammy-winning super-producer rolled into the Fillmore Minneapolis on Tuesday night with his ultra-chipper dance-pop band Bleachers, and he didn't let up on the gas all night. If concerts could be described in Muppet characters, this one was Animal — bouncy, hyperactive, unrestrainable, but still mighty cute.
Antonoff had a busy quarantine releasing records with Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Clairo and Taylor Swift. He picked up 2021's album-of-the-year Grammy with Swift, sealing his, um, reputation as one of pop's go-to sonic stylists. But the 37-year-old New Jersey native was clearly itching to get back on the road playing his own songs.
Throughout Tuesday's nearly two-hour set, he talked about how much he missed performing during the pandemic. It was easy to see why, too, after witnessing the adoring and outright giddy reception the 1,800 mostly Gen Z-aged fans gave him,
Antonoff's own appeal isn't quite so clear at first. He's a tad nerdy, with a Fred Armison-meets-Henry Winkler look that hardly suggests frontman material. He's also a rather nondescript vocalist. He wisely lets his bandmates — and now his crowds, too — do most of the singing in his giant, verbose choruses, which give his Jersey predecessors Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi a run for their audience-singalong money.
But boy, oh boy, is this man earnest. He instills a Springsteen-level passion in just about every song but also adds a softer, more emo touch, along with the occasional bit of whimsical humor.
That contrast was evident right away. Antonoff went from singing the opener "91" solo on piano — a rather serious song about remembering the first Gulf War as a kid — to jumping off the stage risers and jump-starting the crowd's rabid participation with the manic love song "Let's Get Married."
The ultra-peppy pace of "Let's Get Married" was impressively maintained through much of the show. Whether he was channeling Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" in "I Miss Those Days" or doing his best impression of the Boss in "Don't Go Dark," Antonoff went for broke.
He even made the standard introduction of his bandmates late in the set into an excitedly playful montage — fittingly so, since they truly were a fun bunch to watch. The five-man crew alternated instruments throughout the set (the drummer was sometimes on bass guitar, the saxophonist moved over to keyboards, etc.).
Even in the rare moments when the tempos slowed down, Antonoff himself didn't let up. He delivered "45" solo on acoustic guitar with fiery energy. And their moody, ambient cover of the Waterboys' classic "The Whole of the Moon" featured some of his most intense singing.
He backhandedly dedicated the cover to Prince, saying his band had spent the day recording new songs out at Paisley Park.
"There's an energy I feel every time I play here," he told the crowd. "It's not because of Prince. He embodied it, and he loved it here. You can feel it."
That was just one of several times he gushed about the Twin Cities, where he has been coming on tour since his teen years with his previous bands Outline, Steel Train and the "We Are Young"-hitmaking group Fun (in which he played guitar).
Exactly how far Antonoff has come with Bleachers in just eight years hit home as fans bounced full-tilt and sang full-throated to the string of hits at show's end, including "Rollercoaster," "I Wanna Get Better" and the new and charmingly new-wavy "Stop Making This Hurt."
"Say goodbye like you mean it," went the latter song's refrain, a fitting end to a concert that had the young fans wrapped up at hello.