I have never been that into the music of Bright Eyes, which is odd because I’m a sensitive white male (aka the band’s target demographic.) Perhaps it’s because the ladies of my three most important relationships, who have very few overlapping traits, are linked by a fanatic love of the Conor Oberst’s (now former?) band. Stranger still is my love for all things solo Oberst, especially when you consider that much of his solo work is different from Bright Eyes in name only.
This is my fourth time seeing Mr. Oberst live (twice before with the fantastic Mystic Valley Band back in high school, and once a few years ago in a tiny theatre by himself; some tears may have been shed.) He is currently in the midst of another solo tour backed by Dawes, a fantastic group of musicians whose opening set I unfortunately missed. Oberst sounded amazing and was the happiest I’ve ever seen him live. He looked jovial, swung his guitar around, and even danced a little. It was a weird contrast to his drunken Mystic Valley performances or the sullen solo set when his huge hat covered his face. Dawes, plus the horn section and a couple of beautiful female multi-instrumentalists who added lovely Emmylou-esque harmonies, were in top form. I miss the ramshackle vibe of the Mystic Valley crew, but this band sounded professional and tight. They busted through some standout tracks from his great new record like “Hundreds of Ways” and “Governor’s Ball,” on top of the arguably best Bright Eyes tunes like “Lua” and a particularly fantastic “If The Brakeman Turns My Way.”
I hadn’t listened to Conor much lately, but seeing him again was like seeing an old friend. I’ve got to let Conor back into my life more often and maybe I should give that old band of his another chance.
– Layne Montgomery