Review – The Ladies of boygenius left the Ogden Speechless

It’s been four months since the world was introduced to boygenius — the sublime collaboration between three of indie rock’s most noteworthy songstresses. Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker are powerhouse talents in their own right, each baring their souls with a wherewithal far beyond their years. And when they come together, the result is downright astounding. The full album, boygenius, was only released this past October — but its understated beauty quickly stunned critics and audiences alike. Vast for just six-tracks, the project is a gut-wrenchingly honest odyssey into the souls of the trio. When Baker announced a tour with not only Bridgers but Dacus as well, the question on everybody’s minds was apparent. After Dacus, Bridgers and Baker graced the Ogden’s stage Monday night, that question was irrefutably answered.

Up first was Virginia-native, Lucy Dacus. With magnetizing modesty, Dacus took to the stage solo. Opening with an unreleased track titled “Thumbs” — Dacus asked the crowd to put their phones away and submerged the teeming audience in the lofty swells of her voice. Melancholic as ever, Dacus’ latest felt like a distant memory and charmed the eager crowd to silence. After another unaccompanied number, “Addictions” from 2018’s Historian, a small band joined Dacus on stage. The brief set showcased the growth in Dacus’s artistry, highlighting her range and apologetic sense of lyricism. Dacus’ voice is like a blanket that seems to warm you from the inside out, making you feel ironically safe amidst songs rampant with themes of death and heartbreak. Ending on the earnestly simple “Night Time,” Dacus left the stage offering a small smile to a packed crowd obviously hungry for more.

Photo courtesy of Lucy Dacus on Facebook

That hunger was quickly satisfied as a tapestry unfurled, showing off the soft image of a fluffy white dog accompanied by a ghost roughly painted in dayglow. It was a reimagination of the artwork for Stranger in the Alps, Bridgers’ debut album. Bridgers took the stage with a similarly shy lure as Dacus. An ethereal figure in her own right, Bridgers too seemed to glow in the dark as she enveloped her captive audience. With a haunting voice, flowing with the steady translucence of a mountain stream, the quiet Californian swiftly moved many Denverites to tears. Backing Bridgers simply-yet-skillfully, her band gushed sensitive instrumentation that matched Bridgers in immersion.

Photo courtesy of Phoebe Bridgers on Facebook.

Diving into a stripped-down rendition of Gillian Welch’s internet music anthem, “Everything Is Free,” Bridgers shared the mic with her drummer and ex, Marshall Vore. With spot-on harmonization and mischievous smiles, the track gave Denver a small window into Bridgers’ contrastingly playful personality. Copying Dacus, Bridgers also introduced Denver to yet another unreleased number and made the crowd abstain from recording the unnamed tearjerker until it sounds “better.”

“I’m okay, I swear,” Bridgers teasingly promised the crowd. Stark lyrics matched with otherworldly melodies — Bridgers’ songwriting paints visceral stories with a timelessly Western tone, complete with slide guitar. Ending poignantly with, “Scott Street,” Bridgers’ own evocative voice was met softly with that of Denver’s — widening Bridgers’ smile as she breezed off the stage.

Yet another tapestry unfurled, this time revealing simple and elegant dark print. Emblazoned with copper symbols against an inky backdrop, ranging from a drowning hand to a singular crutch — the print mused the story of Julien Baker.

Baker bounced onto the stage already grinning from ear to ear. The smile shifted as soon as she struck her guitar. Brimming with passion, Baker steadily silenced the Ogden with “Sour Breath,” a blunt introspective track off of 2017’s Turn Out the Lights. With a voice that shifts from sharply crisp to seemingly endless, Baker transcended over the stage with artful transformation. The Tennessee native may be small in stature, but her presence is as enormous as the steepest of the Appalachians.

Each track played more like a gorgeously composed journal entry — cinematic in sound but deeply and dauntingly personal. A master of the continual buildup, the headliner showcased her unquestionable ability to be quiet explosively. Now alone, Baker made her way to the piano to blanket the Ogden in the fragile and spacey, “Sprained Ankle” — the titular track from her 2015 debut. Her audience swelled with the biting tide of her voice.

Photo courtesy of Julien Baker on Facebook.

Each and every song highlights the fact that this 23-year old is endowed with a shockingly understated maturity. Weaving powerful stories drenched piety and composed with a careful attention to detail, Baker’s thoughtful take on folk is downright refreshing. Poetically honest, Baker’s time on stage seemed as emotively cathartic for her as it did for the tear-stricken audience. After the formidably hopeful “Appointments,” Baker slipped her fans a knowing smile and as quickly as it began, it was over.

The audience stirred uncomfortably— for a moment uncertain if we would get a chance to get a taste of the trio. But then Baker’s tapestry fell away to reveal a simple black screen twinkling with starry lights and boygenius took the stage to a raucous applause. Tastefully dressed in matching black suits embroidered with white symbols, they took the places — Baker flanked by Bridgers to her right and Dacus to her left.

Photo courtesy of Julien Baker on Instagram.

Without a moment’s notice, they methodically started in on the slow-burning “Souvenir,” which quickly showcased the power of the trio in harmony. Annunciated by the others, each voice came through sharply unique.  The crowd silently whirled with the atmospheric and emotive melodies, crying with catharsis at the ever-relatable lyrics. The show boiled down to the fiery performance of “Me and My Dog,” passionately driven by Bridgers’ voice — the crowd breathlessly sang along. Dacus and Bridgers sunk to the ground in choreographed fits of approval for Baker’s heart-wrenching guitar solo. With an equal spotlight on the undeniable talent of each songstress, it was apparent that the trio has absolute respect for each other and an infectiously good time-sharing the stage.

With Bridgers on acoustic guitar, boygenius polished off the evening with memorably soft-spoken and mic-free rendition of the lingering, “Ketchum, Idaho.” Singing at barely above the whisper, the trio was matched with a soft hum of a crowd in collective harmony, ending the night in a collective lullaby. As the lights sifted on, the audience remained — silently stunned by the encore performance of boygenius in its entirety. Needless to say, the emotional night silenced any and all questions of the magic of boygenius.

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