all words: Matthew Shaver
all photos: Stephanie Breijo
(sadly, our reviewer missed the opening bands. please leave comments about your memories of them-ed)
After witnessing my first Bright Eyes show, and watching the mythical indie-folk hero Conor Oberst strut about the stage for nearly two hours, it’s not hard to imagine that right before every show, he peeks out over the audience and quietly says, to no one in particular, “I’m about to blow your fucking minds!”
The weather, the sound, the crowd – all came together perfectly for a beautiful evening in the woods of Northern Virginia. With the sun already out of sight and the cool night breeze beginning to chase away the heat, the vocal sample that haunts the first track of Bright Eyes newest effort, The People’s Key, over took the pavilion.
As the band and their bounty of guests took the stage, the event kicked off with “Firewall” which built slowly into a thundering tower of guitars and dual drummers hammering away at the night.
Most of the set remained energetic and, at some points, frantic. Rarely slowing down in the first half, the most dangerous gang in folk music burned through a healthy selection of their repertoire. Oberst owned the stage through “Take It Easy (Love Nothing)” and “Four Winds”, while stepping to the side a bit and giving some of the “magic of the theater” to his enemble on epic pieces like “Trees Get Wheeled Away”, with the always lovely Laura Burhenn on accordion. Even fellow “Monster” M. Ward came out to play on “Smoke Without Fire.” Though Ward’s smoother folk vocals don’t mesh too well with Conors often shaky howl, their guitars making sweet love in the night breeze made up for it.
If his ever wavering voice and often somber songwriting ever led you to believe that Oberst may be a bit of a downer, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Criss-crossing the stage with a hip-hop swagger during “Arc of Time,” banging heads with the best on “Jejune Stars”, and even playing up a bit of the New Wave-ish audacity and rasta lyrical tone of the new album on the finale “One For You, One For Me”.
His sense of humor and playfulness were warmly welcomed, and there was rarely a moment of silence. Even on quieter numbers like “Lua” and the main set closer “Ladder Song” the grateful audience shouted out their love for him (as well as song requests).
They may have you believe that this was their final album under the “Bright Eyes” moniker, but this didn’t feel like a send off. More of a hearty “show us some love”. The response that Conor, Mike, and Nate received transcended gender as the entire pavilion answered the call. If you were there, you know what I mean, but if this “Oberst guy” still remains a bit of a mystery to you, catch the live show – if it ever comes round again.
- 1) Firewall
- 2) Haile Selassie
- 3) Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
- 4) Jejune Stars
- 5) Four Winds
- 6) Bowl of Oranges
- 7) Trees Get Wheeled Away
- 8) Lua
- 9) Shell Game
- 10) Approximate Sunlight
- 11) Arc of Time
- 12) Falling Out of Love At This Volume
- 13) Cartoon Blues
- 14) Smoke Without Fire
- 15) Hot Knives
- 16) Poison Oak
- 17) The Calendar Hung Itself
- 18) Ladder Song
- 19) Lover I Don’t Have To Love
- 20) I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (Road To Joy)
- 21) One For You, One For Me