By Tyler Bunzey
September 20, 2021
The air outside of Charlotte’s Metro Credit Union Amphitheater was buzzing with anticipation on Sunday night. The Doc Martens of impatient concertgoers tapped in frustration at a line that reached over a half-mile over the I-277 bridge back to Walter G. Byers Elementary school. Covid protocols including proof of vaccination or a negative test result were requested by the tour after moving several shows outdoors, which may have contributed to some logistical issues. PNC Music Pavilion also hosted the highly anticipated return of Willie Nelson and his Outlaw Music Fest, which may have caused some staffing issues with Live Nation. As the opening act– L.A.-based electro-pop band MUNA– started to play, dejected fans began to let out hopeless sighs looking over the fireflies lighting up the dusk in Greenville Park, realizing they would miss the beginning of the indie pop band’s set.
As we made it into the amphitheater, the fireflies were swiftly replaced by a sea of cellphone lights illuminating a chorus of voices singing MUNA’s “Taken,” their hit song exploring the relationship between desire and rejection. The band, at times, felt more like a co-headliner than an opening act with their base of frenzied fans belting out the lyrics to hits like “Number One Fan” and “Stay Away.”
The undeniable apex of their performance was their new joint single with Bridgers: “Silk Chiffon.” MUNA’s lead singer– Katie Gavin– paused after “Pink Light” to shout, “This next one is for the gays!” which the audience met with excited shouts and applause. The joyful ballad– whose music video recreates scenes from the cult queer film But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)– served as sort of a thesis statement for a concert that at its core celebrated queer love and identity.
Phoebe Bridgers’ cameo in “Silk Chiffon” thrilled an audience eager to explore joy, pain, and heartbreak in the singer’s notoriously vulnerable music. Bridgers– reemerging after a brief intermission– started her set on an ironic note, conjuring laughter as the band walked out in their signature glittery skeleton suits to the Black Eyed Peas’ 2009 hit “I Gotta Feeling.”
Bridgers abruptly transitioned this introduction into her single from the 2017 album Stranger in the Alps, “Motion Sickness.” Her presence was immediately palpable, and the dull orange stage lights with the croon of her soft voice made the balmy September night feel almost like a cool fall evening. Her concert unfolded just like the pop-up storybook graphics behind her as fans sang unapologetically to her hits like “Kyoto,” “Halloween,” and “Smoke Signals.” Impressively, Bridgers’ much softer sound held its own after a more raucous MUNA set.
While the amphitheater engineers definitely deserve credit for making her voice shine through, Bridgers captivated the almost sold-out crowd with her understated but powerful stage presence. Even in doleful mid-tempo ballads like “Smoke Signals,” Bridgers enraptured the crowd, as hundreds of young, expectant voices interrupted the softness of tender lament to shout the line “Fuck the cops.” It’s almost impossible for most acts to keep an excited audience from chatting during the low-tempo portions of a set, but the only thing you could hear during Bridgers’ slow, emotional songs was the sound of sniffling voices softly singing along.
This power was clearly present whether Bridgers was performing with her band or when she was alone for a stirring, intimate performance of the 2017 track, “Georgia.” Her set followed this pathway of exploring identity and loss– culminating with “Georgia”– before finding release in her final pre-encore performance: “I Know the End.”
This penultimate performance was followed by a brief encore of a Bo Burnham cover, “That Funny Feeling,” and it concluded the journey toward self-acceptance that ran through both artists’ sets. As fans shuffled out– hugging, wiping tears, and laughing together, the energy mirrored the kind of emotional release that you experience after therapy. The artists gave us the opportunity to process what it means to live in a world that often seems confusing and alienating. Though MUNA and Bridgers didn’t give concertgoers an opportunity to escape this world, they encouraged us to feel our feelings and keep moving, fighting to be brave and love ourselves, at least until the next show.
Check out the remaining dates for the Phoebe Bridgers tour with MUNA.
“Number One Fan”
“Crying on the Bathroom Floor”
“I Know a Place”
“I Know The End”
“That Funny Feeling” (Bo Burnham Cover)