Bright Eyes concert review

A while back I mentioned that I would be going to one of the Bright Eyes shows this year. Well, I went and saw them last Thursday in Nashville; yes, 6 hours of drive time and a time zone between here and there. Every one of those miserable 12 hours was made up for by the amazing show that The Mynabirds and Bright Eyes put on.
I’d never heard of the Mynabirds before the show. The band is led by Laura Berhenn, who also played keyboard for Bright Eyes during the concert. They were okay. Their show was very mellow, sort of like the calm before the Oberst storm (and I mean that). Here’s a link to one of the better songs they played at the show; you can decide if you like them. If you do, here’s a link to their website.
Now, Bright Eyes. Here was the line-up (Song followed by the album):

Firewall- the People’s Key
Jejune Stars- the People’s Key
Take it Easy (Love Nothing) - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
Four Winds- Cassadaga
Cleanse Song- Cassadaga
We are Nowhere and its Now- I’m Wide Awake its Morning
Shell Games- the People’s Key
Arc of Time- Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
Triple Spiral- the People’s Key
Approximate Sunlight- the People’s Key
Hot Knives- Cassadaga
An Attempt to Tip the Scales- Fevers and Mirrors
Spring Cleaning- One Jug of Wine Two Vessels (EP)
Beginner’s Mind- the People’s Key
Bowl of Oranges- Lifted
Poison Oak- I’m Wide Awake its Morning
Old Soul Song- I’m Wide Awake its Morning
The Calendar Hung Itself- Fevers and Mirrors
Ladder Song- the People’s Key
Lua- Lua and I’m Wide Awake its Morning
Lover I Don't Have to Love- Lifted
(Introduces the band)
Road to Joy- I’m Wide Awake its Morning
One for You, One for Me- the People’s Key

If you haven’t noticed, The People’s Key had the most songs in the concert, followed by I’m Wide Awake its Morning. I like both albums, but would’ve been fully satiated by more Fevers and Mirrors and Lifted. At the very least, it would’ve been easier for hipster me to drone along quietly to lyrics I’m more familiar with.
With that said, I really enjoyed the show. The band, particularly Conor, had an undeniable stage presence. They used several mood-setting lights that aided whichever song they played. Two white-wedged coves which flashed bright red sat on stage over one of the keyboardists and the bassist. A giant screen behind the band, combined with the overwhelming amount of fog, gave the concert a psychedelic, The Flaming Lips feel as it showed giant, vibrantly colored images of different members of the band. Conor’s performance was filled with radical emotional bouts, from a defeated, nihilistic slouch he had during Ladder Song to a sporadic temper-tantrum he unleashed during The Calendar Hung Itself. Even the bliss he expressed in Bowl of Oranges emanated from him, though it was far more reserved than the former two expressions.
Going back to the organization (I wanted to follow a positive with a semi-negative), the and got to a lot of the songs I loved and made the show good to me. The order of the songs, however, didn’t seem to have any sort of linear, overarching theme. It was as if Conor had created a mosaic of several oppositional feelings and images that loosely formed something, though it wasn’t anything concrete. I had wondered before arriving how the band would decide to line-up their show. Every album that Bright Eyes has put out has a different series of moods, different sounds, different themes (especially when you compare his recent albums, which seem to have more condescending tones in regards to religion and politics, and his more self-centered older albums), etc. How, I wondered, would the band possibly link anything from I’m Wide Awake its Morning to something from The People’s Key? The only way they could: an intermittent series of varying moods. This structure didn’t bother me much, but as long as they were metaphorically slapping photos randomly in a scrapbook, I would’ve liked to hear some other stuff in place of the many People’s Key songs they played; some Sunrise Sunset, Don’t Know When but a Day’s Gonna Come, I Must Belong Somewhere… Method Acting… Middleman… you get the idea.
One more thing I’d like to point out is that my thoughts, as well as the thoughts of those I’ve talked to, were confirmed at the concert: Conor Oberst knows that he could jizz on a CD and people would flock to buy it. A lot of the concert was him force-feeding us The People’s Key, a CD that a lot of people aren’t sure about yet. It began and ended with the first and last songs on said album too, which, combined with the amount of People’s Key songs, gave me the impression that he was advertising. Later in the concert, Conor claimed that he was going to end the show on Ladder Song, which he played and then exited the stage. After about 10 minutes of ridiculous screaming on our part, the band finally came back on stage and played four more songs, with an intro to the band in between. I couldn’t help but notice that the introduction to each band member came during the encore, meaning that Conor was very aware that he would be screamed back on stage following Ladder Song. It was minutiae in the general picture, but it still came across as a little pompous.
Though my last two paragraphs may not suggest it, I loved the concert, and screamed along with everyone else in the Ryman Auditorium. I sang along to old songs, mumbled the new ones, and couldn’t stop moving to the beats until the show was over. The experience was well worth the 75 bucks and 12 hour drive and I hope to see them again in the future.

P.S. - Arcade Fire and the National will be in Indianapolis on April 27th. I might go, but the tickets are a little steep. I’ll keep you posted.

1 comment:

  1. steven threndyleApr 9, 2011, 4:56:00 AM

    Came across your blog - obviously you're a big fan. I saw him tonight in Vancouver (BC, Canada) and - hell, I'm in my 50s - this was as good as a concert ever gets. I have three cds and he really didn't do much that I recognized, but I couldn't give a rat's ass... his band, and him - were on fire. An extremely appreciative crowd propelled the night into pure musical euphoria. Four stars.