Review: boygenius, The Piece Hall, Halifax, Tuesday 22 August, 2023

Review by Gareth John

Photos by Cuffe and Taylor & The Piece Hall

THE stunning 18th century Halifax Piece Hall hosted its 22nd concert of a summer series as it welcomed US songwriting supergroup boygenius, members Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus delighting a 5,500-capacity crowd on the first of two sold-out nights.

Dedicated boygenius devotees had queued for hours before the historic gates opened as American singer songwriter Ethel Cain opened the evening’s performance. Given the crowd’s response, Cain had won many hearts in the crowd tonight. As the sun set on a balmy evening, Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town announced the arrival of boygenius as the trio opened with the beautiful With You Without Them, performed from backstage with their huddled image screened to the waiting crowd.

York Press: Phoebe Bridgers of boygenius at HalifaxPhoebe Bridgers of boygenius at Halifax (Image: Cuffe and Taylor & The Piece Hall)

Having released only one EP and the recent album The Record, this trio combine intimate ballads of crisis and loss with celebratory anthems of love, creativity and liberation, all performed tonight to a mixed crowd but one largely comprised of teenage girls and twenty-something couples.

Reminiscent of Indigo Girls, whose classic Closer to Fine has been rebirthed through Greta Gerwigs’s Barbie, the close-woven harmonies of Boygenius are simply wonderful.

Dressed in matching suits, the band switch from rock riffs to folk songs and from anthems to solos. Likely influences include Tori Amos, Aimee Mann and the late Sinead O’Connor as the band performed their timeless Americana-tinged songs to a near-hysterical crowd.

The band appear to carry their goddess-like responsibilities well as they offer their fanbase fun and frivolity as well as tales of normality and counsel on navigating life’s challenges.

Following her recent sell-out UK tour, Bridgers chose the glorious Graceland Too as a solo contribution to the set. Dacus sang the gorgeous Please Stay, lyrics ‘You tell me you love me like it’ll be the last time, like you’re playing out the end of a storyline’ expressing fear of a likely breakup. The almost youthful innocence of Baker saw her sing Favor, the searching lyrics asking ‘How long do I have until I’ve spent up everyone’s goodwill?’

Requesting even more audience intimacy, Bridgers asked for mobile phones to be put away as she poured her heart out on Letters to an Old Poet.

York Press: boygenius play to a full crowd at Halifaxboygenius play to a full crowd at Halifax (Image: Cuffe and Taylor & The Piece Hall)

The trio performed the stunning favourite $20 and the rolling True Blue whilst Souvenir was paused due to a medical issue in the crowd. The excellent Boyfriends was presented as a tongue-in-cheek dedication to the boyfriends in the crowd as the band conclude their set with encores Kethcum ID, Dumbest Girl Alive and Salt in the Wound, the latter inspiring Bridgers and Dacus to crowd-surf.

Performing 22 songs over two hours, boygenius effortlessly combined solo talents to create an epic performance on a memorable night in this stunning venue.