Back in November of 2020, late on a Saturday night, Bleachers – who hadn’t released any new music in over two years – tweeted a phone number. Fans dialed it, and what was waiting on the other end of the line was a clip of a song never heard before. It could have been that simple, but fans soon discovered that through pressing certain combinations of buttons, more and more pieces of the song could be unlocked, and if you keyed in the right numbers in the right sequence, you’d soon be listening to a staticy recording of an unmistakable voice – Bruce Springsteen, belting out the lyrics to the newest Bleachers song.
Two days later, the song entered the world for real. “Chinatown” came along with a video that featured Jack Antonoff driving Springsteen around the streets of New Jersey – an image that felt about as Bleachers as Bleachers could ever be.
As soon as I heard the song, I knew that someday down the line, however far away it may be (still in the midst of a pandemic-induced live music drought), there’d be a Bleachers show where The Boss would walk out on stage, the band would launch into “Chinatown,” and two generations of New Jersey musical legends would together sing and play a love letter to the place they are from.
This past Tuesday night at Radio City, that vision came to life.
About halfway through their set, following a cover of Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl” (more famously covered by The Boss himself), Antonoff stood at the microphone strumming his guitar. “Tom Waits is from California, but he wrote that song about New Jersey,” he said. “This is my song I wrote about New Jersey, and please welcome the finest, Bruce Springsteen.”
Deafening cheers – and of course the famous “Bruuuuuuuuuce” – erupted from the crowd as Springsteen took the stage toting an acoustic guitar and launched into “Chinatown” with the band.
The smiles did not leave either of the musicians’ faces as they made their way through the song. A song that has been a high point of Bleachers’ live shows since they first started performing it last year had an extra layer of magic injected into it that night, in what had to be a dream come true for Antonoff, who has spoken time and time again about how Springsteen has influenced his writing since Bleachers’ inception in 2014. The band continued on to finish out a 21-song set at their largest headlining NYC show to date, as energetic and captivating as they always are. But it’s the image of those two playing together that will stick in my memory for quite some time, as I imagine it will for anyone else lucky enough to be in the crowd that night – a feel-good reminder that your biggest dreams are never too far out of reach.
Check out some photos from the show below!