Bright Eyes: leaping onto my Top 10 Concerts list with a bullet!
This fall, I was psyched to go with Rosa to see Conor Oberst with his long-time main band, Bright Eyes. I got turned on to him thanks to an NPR online concert, and he became a common musical ground for Rosa and I, a good and rare thing for an 18 and 54 year old pair of music lovers.
But little did I know how amazing it would be! By the time it was over, this show had popped into the Top 10 Concerts of All (my) Time list, not something that happens very often any more (three of my Top 10 have come in the new millennium).
Conor’s an intense and inspired songwriter, exploring with a voracious honesty the dark corners of experience (his, those he encounters, all of ours), as well as casting light on our hopes (ragged as they may be these days), always coming from a place of raw and exposed heart and soul, reaching deep. A totally charismatic stage presence, as well, by far the most compelling front man I’ve ever seen up close in a small club. Add Mike Mogis, who’s been his guitar-slinging sidekick for over a decade, and a way-tight-yet-explosive band of two keyboards, two drummers, bass, and occasional trumpet, and you’ve got a recipe for a good time! I don’t know nearly his whole catalog, but got easily caught up even in totally unknown songs whose words I could only catch snatches of: a riveting couplet would reach out and grab me while my body was carried along by the churning band and then sent soaring by a burst of grand rock’n’roll cacophony.
Though scouring YouTube to try to recreate something remotely representative of being there in the midst of it all is a fool’s errand (count me as foolish for the past couple of hours or so), I managed to come up with a solid hour-long video playlist that gives a decent sense of why I feel really lucky to have caught this band in what’s said to be their final tour. There’s a good chance Conor and Mike will continue to do things together; Mogis was the non-singing “fourth man” and producer for the supergroup Monsters of Folk, which brought together three of the top 30-something songwriters into the CSN of their generation; check Conor, Jim James, and M Ward out on this Austin City Limits show. (oops; expires on Christmas! Bah humbug. Here’s a 3-song NPR session.)
Okay, on with the show!
We’ll dive right in at maximum impact, with the final song of most of the shows on this tour, and the final song on Bright Eyes’ final album, The People’s Key. One for You, One for Me:
And a taste of his gentler songwriting, in Bowl of Oranges:
For a bunch more, click on through!
We pause this playlist for a word from our musical turn-on-er, NPR Music. If you’re not part of their orb, you really ought to be! Their wide-ranging website brings together concerts, in-studio visits, and stories from their daily news programs, with separate sections for rock, jazz, classical, hip-hop/R&B, and world music. There’s blogs and podcasts as well. Oh, and the entire 2-hour Bright Eyes show from this year’s SXSW, in both streaming video and streaming and downloadable audio!
Alright, then, moving right along, to pretty much a love song (albeit with a bit of trepidation), First Day of My Life, here in a duo version with M Ward at Austin City Limits:
And here’s a rocker I remember from the show, a great example of the kind of song I really got off on while catching a few lyric snippets here and there…it’s called Arc of Time:
And another new one, I Believe in Symmetry, with Mike really going for it. Seeing them in front of such a huge crowd make it all the more incredible that I got to experience this band in a truly tiny club, ABQ’s Sunshine Theater, where the floor in front of the stage is only about thirty feet deep. Yowsa.
From a few years back, playing with the friends who would later become Monsters of Folk, doing Bottom of Everything:
An older song from the last tour, Landlocked Blues (with a bit of wind messing with the audio):
From the last album, the final tender lament just before the big blow-out ending that we started with. It’s called The Ladder Song:
A “soothing rocker,” Jejune Stars:
A taste of “young Conor” doing a song of a young seeker, We are Nowhere and It’s Now:
One more in that vein, Lua:
Let’s end with a studio cut, for a taste of how they do that thing: It’s the “title” song from the I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning album, Road to Joy:
And for an encore, following in the new and no doubt fleeting Bright Blue Ball tradition of closing with Dylan homages (as in my recent post on the Tom Russell show), let’s hear Monsters of Folk doing their round-robin vocal thing on Girl From the North Country: