A crowd of girls, gays, theys and every combination therein milled about Madison Square Garden on Monday night (Oct. 2). They chatted with each other about their favorite shows they’d seen lately, swapping lyrics and showing off tattoos.
Moments later, aside from a few errant cheers, the 20,000 person gathering had gone quiet, gently humming and singing along to an a capella hymn. The leaders of this communal canticle were the women of Boygenius — Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. Huddled around a microphone backstage and broadcast onto a massive LED screen, the trio offered a promise to their entranced congregants: “I’ll give everything I’ve got/ Please take what I can give,” they sang. “I want you to hеar my story/ And be a part of it.”
The ensuing 2 hours of Boygenius’ sold-out debut set at the iconic New York venue further proved why the supergroup has become one of the most essential bands of this generation. Through raucous hell-raising, intimate storytelling and proficient performing, the alternative triumvirate delivered their screaming fans an all-time great show fueled by emotional outpouring and a sense of genuine (and overtly queer) community. As Dacus put it towards the end of the evening, “this has been the best night of our lives.”
The band was certainly set up for success from the start — fellow queer-femme alternative purveyors MUNA (who Baker referred to as “our collective favorite band” later on) brought the house down with their high-energy, crowd-pleasing opening set. Skipping around the stage and kicking inflatable horses into the eager audience, the band made sure they got the crowd’s excitement that much higher for “MUNAGenius,” the portmeanteau fans used to further hype up the performance. “It’s like the capital of friends being horny with each other onstage,” lead singer Katie Gavin said with a laugh.
By the time the headliners pranced onto the stage, the house was already in shambles as attendees screamed along to every word of the rousing “$20.” Throughout the set, fans made a point to shout along in perfect unison on specific lyrics, like “sleep in cars and kill the bourgeoisie” on the exhilarating “Satanist,” or “f–k around and find out” on “True Blue.” With each member dressed in their crisp suits and wielding their guitars, you would be forgiven for drawing parallels between the cheering masses of today and those at the height of Beatlemania.
The feeling was most certainly mutual — at multiple points throughout the evening, the band stopped to survey the excited masses and express their awe. Dacus first addressed the crowd with a giddy scream; Bridgers shook her head and laughed that “this don’t make no sense”; Baker said she would do her best to actually keep her eyes open when singing, despite the fact that she was “so nervous” at the “insane” crowd.
It was that communal, reciprocal energy that brought something fresh to Boygenius’ show — as moved as fans were by the band’s tender ballads like standouts “Emily, I’m Sorry” and “Revolution 0,” the trio were just as moved by their fans’ attentive action. After Dacus was tossed a series of pink carnations during her performance of “We’re In Love” (a reference to the song’s lyric “I’ll be the boy with the pink carnation”), she couldn’t hold in her tears. Her cries of joy led to a group hug that sent waves of sentimental fervor through the audience.
At one point early in the evening, Bridgers couldn’t help but point out how different a Boygenius show felt to any other concert. “Our fans are all so nice to each other and to us, that the security team up here has literally been handing out tissues,” she said. “Thank you for your service, guys.”
The sentimentality certainly didn’t stop the band from letting fans in on sillier moments. When prompted to introduce one another almost halfway through the event, each member was given their own WWE-style introduction from their bandmates. Right after starting fan-favorite “Me & My Dog,” Bridgers brought the song to a halt in order to ask fans to hold up pictures of their pooches.
Much like their songs, the band made sure to show off the talents of each member at every given opportunity. Dacus’ crystal clear voice pierced through the artifice with”Please Stay”; Baker let her demons out on the outstanding “Favor”; Bridgers poured tender passion into each word of “Graceland Too.”
At one point towards the end of show, the trio decided to treat their adoring audience to something even more special; after a top-notch rendition of “Not Strong Enough,” the band ran to the venue’s B-stage on the opposite end of the Garden’s floor. Taking up their new position in a sea of rapt onlookers, the trio performed all four songs off their unreleased EP The Rest, set to release on Oct. 13. Whether embracing oblivion on “Black Hole” or dissociating on “Voyager,” Boygenius ran through the entirety of their new project, beaming at their fans the entire time.
Yet the highlights from the evening came when the band allowed themselves and the crowd to experience release, be it through confessional, tender performances like “Letter to an Old Poet,” or Dacus and Bridgers physically releasing their bodies by going partly-topless for closer “Salt in the Wound.” Bake had her own moment of catharsis on “Anti-Curse,” after which she revealed that she had lost her sense of confidence before getting to work with her friends again.
“These guys have given me my voice back,” she said, holding back tears as Bridgers and Dacus beamed at her from either side of the stage. “I think that is what music is for; to hear your voice against another person’s. So if you need confirmation, then let us be your confirmation bias. We need you to be able to do this.”
Check out Boygenius’ full setlist from their Oct. 2 show at Madison Square Garden below:
Boygenius’ Madison Square Garden Setlist:
- “Without You Without Them”
- “Emily, I’m Sorry”
- “True Blue”
- “Cool About It”
- “Bite the Hand”
- “Revolution 0”
- “Stay Down”
- “Leonard Cohen”
- “Please Stay”(Lucy Dacus song)
- “Favor” (Julien Baker song)
- “Graceland Too”(Phoebe Bridgers song)
- “Me & My Dog”
- “We’re In Love”
- “Letter to an Old Poet”
- “Not Strong Enough”
- “Black Hole” (unreleased)
- “Afraid of Heights” (unreleased)
- “Voyager” (unreleased)
- “Powers” (unreleased)
- “Ketchum, ID”
- “Salt in the Wound”
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