Live Review: boygenius – Halifax Piece Hall, 23 August 2023

The bewitching harmonies of Without You, Without Them ring out around the majestic Italianate architecture of Halifax’s Piece Hall. It signals the start of one of the most hotly anticipated shows of the summer. The big screen at the back of the stage flickers to life, like an old TV, and the crackly image of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, huddled around a single microphone emerges.

There are screams, as the song concludes and the band take the stage from behind the curtain.

boygenius is the coming together of 3 prodigious talents. Bridgers may be the best known, but there’s no sense of leadership or ownership by any one of the 3 artists over the others. Instead, it’s a meeting of equals, as they all began their solo careers at a similar time, releasing their own critically acclaimed solo work before coming together to form one of the most talked about ‘supergroups’ in years.

But it’s not only the music. They’re a queer-identifying group, and they’re very vocal on issues that affect modern society, particularly around abortion and trans rights and, as Laura Barton put in in her great piece in The Guardian, they have “the peculiar charge of articulating the feelings of a generation.”

It’s 6 or 7 beautifully crafted songs before the band actually introduce themselves. “I guess we should have said….we’re boygenius”. Not that the crowd were in any doubt. There’s a level of adoration for the band that borders on religious. So much so, that there are tears at the barrier in the first 10 mins, such is the emotion delivered and devotion inspired by the indie supergroup.

The 3 solo offerings mid-set showcase how accomplished these artists are on their own, never mind what they can achieve together. There are some other standout moments, which highlight the chemistry and equality between the singers. They have to stop, half way through Leonard Cohen as they’ve made each other laugh in the exchange of a glance.

We’re in Love – which features an outstanding vocal from Lucy Dacus – is quite possibly the standout moment of a captivating show. In Letter to an Old Poet, Bridgers insists that phones are put away as she wants to make sure she engages with the audience. “It feels special” she explains, “when we can see your faces and how you respond”. Crouched at the front of the stage, nestled between the monitors, she gets as close to the crowd as she can.

The atmosphere throughout, starting with the excellent Ethel Cain in the support slot, is emotional, those at the front in a heightened state, excited to be so close to their idols. Many had camped out from the early hours to secure their place at the barrier, and they’re rewarded, as each member of the band comes off the stage at various points in the show, to connect with their fans in the most immediate way.

It’s been one of the most astonishing shows I’ve been to in a long time. Modest, egoless, smartly dressed in matching outfits, it’s the music, not the image that eclipses everything else, and connects in a visceral, arresting way. They do speak for their audience, they’re a mouthpiece for this community and this is what borders on genius.

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