More about: Bright Eyes
To be honest, when Mr Gigwise asked me to do this one, I was not looking forward to it. The snide remarks about rabbits and sad endings. Added to that, the impression of a jumped-up American egotist leader Conor Oberst as a angst torn twentysomething whoâ€™s a bit of a miserable geek. Not promising? He co-founded his record label, Saddle Creek with friends. Thereâ€™s the recent "arrogant" double album release of â€˜Iâ€™m Wide Awake, Itâ€™s Morningâ€™ and â€˜Digital Ash In A Digital Urnâ€™. In America, theyâ€™ve had total sales upwards of 100,000 and the double success of simultaneous No.1 and 2 singles, â€˜Luaâ€™ and â€˜Take It Easy (Love Nothing)' respectively.
The support act, Rilo Kiley are good mates with Connor. This is handy as they share the drummer, Jason Boesei and the trumpet player soloist Nate Walcott. Jenny Lewis on lead vocals looks incongruous in a two-piece and woolly tights but sheâ€™s got a good voice. They open with â€˜Itâ€™s A Hitâ€™ and end with â€˜Does He Love Youâ€™ that are probably their best. Thereâ€™s a touch of Kirsty MacColl meets Beautiful South. Their songs struck a cord with one girl who I spotted clutching the bandâ€™s discarded set-list whilst buying the obligatory t-shirt.
When Bright Eyes take to the stage, Connor fits the geek look by wearing a ring-necked pullover! They run through the more accessible â€˜Iâ€™m Wide Awakeâ€™. Starting with the three opening tracks, each showcasing different aspects of the album. The drummerless â€˜At The Bottom Of Everythingâ€™ (thankfully without the spoken introduction) is the Guthrie / acoustic Dylan fans have come to see. The girls in the crowd can gently sway along to this one in misty-eyed admiration as itâ€™s effectively a waltz with trumpet solos. On â€˜Old Soul Songâ€™, Mike Mogis switches form Mandolin to peddle steel and taps into recent newfound interest in Gram Parsonâ€™s territory whilst the trumpet sounds more northern brass band.
By the forth song the pullover comes off. Time for a small whinge as throughout the show thereâ€™s long silent gaps between the songs when the band swaps instruments, share fags and generally lose momentum. By the time they played the reflective â€˜Land Locked Bluesâ€™ the crowd take on the respect of a folk club. Very nu-Dylan and for more, try the next single, â€˜First Day Of My Lifeâ€™, â€˜Poison Oakâ€™ and a brand new song, â€˜I Must Belong Somewhereâ€™ with lines such as "leave the true genius in the padded cell". Conor can also rock when he wants to. Often the electric guitar influences of Neil Young can be heard. On â€˜Another Travelinâ€™ Songâ€™, Jason bangs out the rockabilly to great effect and by the end Conor had worked up a sweat and is looking more like Robert Smith than Bill Gates.
Inevitably, with their own fags backstage it takes a while
for them to return for the encores. The last one of the
three is surreal. They need an opus and â€˜Road To Joyâ€™
is it. Conor shouts, "Lets fuck it up boys lets make some noise". Strangled Nate trumpet, Mike goes for trash keys; so much harder than the album version my mind wandered to elements of Avant-Garde punks Pere Ubu! Bright Eyes, daft name, brilliant gig world dominance next. It will be interesting to see how he handles the increased fame after the European tour but those present can say, "I was there". It wonâ€™t be repeated. At a small venue near you, but not for long.
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More about: Bright Eyes