Phoebe Bridgers Manchester

Live Review & Photos from Phoebe Bridgers Manchester Gig

Live Review & Photos from Phoebe Bridgers Manchester.

Solo singer – songwriter Phoebe Bridgers brings her latest album Punisher to Manchester for two sell out nights at the O2 Apollo as part of her Reunion Tour.

The wait for Punisher

Having recorded her latest album Punisher in pre-pandemic times and with its release coming in June of 2020 Phoebe Bridgers’ rise from cult indie figure to one of the most raved about alternative voices within the music industry was never guaranteed. 

The inability to tour the record upon its release until now presented a risk that the hype of her universally acclaimed debut Strangers In The Alps could have easily dispersed and seen her struggle to reach the heights she first did in 2017. Aside from some shows with side projects this current tour is her first in three years and it feels like something of a victory lap for both her and the audience. They’ve waited a long time to experience this and they’re not shy about showing it. We get an unexpected early indication of how beloved Bridgers is as she subtly takes to the stage to introduce tonight’s support act Sloppy Jane to uncontrollable screams and cheers.

Two sold out shows at the prestigious O2 Apollo is no small feat, one that she will eclipse next week by playing to nearly 20,000 people over four nights at London’s Brixton Academy. Add to that slots at both Glastonbury and Latitude Festival this year and we’re left wondering if she’s not already found herself to be an arena sized act.

Whether a conscious decision or not the choice to play multiple smaller nights as opposed to arenas pays off. The deeply personal context of her music and the intimacy that the O2 Apollo is able to create makes the evening feel like a family affair. We soon find this to be true as Phoebe asks “Are there any Dad’s in the crowd?” and is greeted by a surprisingly enthusiastic raising of scattered hands across the room. 


Bridgers material can be incredibly dark at times but not without hope, or at the very least humour. Hearing it live creates a safe communal space for thousands of people to admit at the top of their lungs “Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time” and not feel alone or hopeless but relatable and seen.

She provides a priceless strand of representation that many of her young audience may find themselves benefitting from should they encounter the same battles she herself has faced and is so transparent about, though it appears from reactions in the crowd that many already have and are making their gratitude known to her by singing her songs back to her word for word as if they were their own. 

Throughout the show the Punisher heavy setlist is complimented by depictions of a children’s pop-up storybook and as the page turns after each song we can feel the added weight and narrative this provides in hearing these songs live for the first time. As with much of her material she has her skeletons on show for all to see as her band don their now familiar spooky-time get ups.

The Church of Phoebe Bridgers

For most in attendance it seems like a massively cathartic hour and half in Phoebe’s presence. Dressed in a gown that could almost be described as religious if not for the shimmering skeleton emblazoned upon it we at times feel as though we’re witnessing a sermon being delivered. With stories bookending songs often ending with lessons learned or realisations from Phoebe she shows a real desire to share them with her audience who so clearly relate to Bridgers and see parts of themselves in her and her music. 

Her empathy for her audience goes further still as between songs she coordinates security staff by instructing them as to where they should be passing water into the crowd and at one point stops Smoke Signals to check on someone mid song. 

As her stock continues to rise and the draw of bigger venues steers towards the inevitable, we just hope that the Church of Phoebe Bridgers can deliver on all that makes this evening special no matter how large the audience. 

Live Review & Photos from Phoebe Bridgers Manchester.