Let me tell you about all of the emotions that were running through my mind as I stood by myself watching Conor Oberst sing through every break-up I’ve ever been through. Just kidding, you really don’t need to hear about any of my epic breakups and the meltdowns that came after. All you really need to know is that, with each epic breakup and inevitable mental meltdown, there was a Bright Eyes song that picked me back up and got me going again.
Last night’s show was opened up by the beautiful and talented Phoebe Bridgers. It must be nerve-wracking to open up for someone as legendary as Conor Oberst but Phoebe held her own and turned heads throughout her set. Based out of Los Angeles, Phoebe has a very Elliot Smith feel to her music but it still has a very unique and new vibe to it. You can hear the strong indie and folk influences but the punk attitude that she presents the music with makes it something completely new. Something about Phoebe just screamed genuine and love. It’s not that she came off as sweet or innocent because she definitely had an edge to her– but she came off as truly being humbled to be opening for a legend and to be involved in such a supportive music scene. Her charming set lasted nearly forty minutes but, honestly, I’m wondering if that was enough. Her new album drops in just a couple of days and I can’t wait to check it out.
Conor Oberst is best known as the singer of Bright Eyes but he also took part in far too many other bands to list including The Faint and Desaparecidos. The amount of influence this man has had on the indie scene is huge and the amount of times his music saved me when it seemed like nothing else could is neverending. I’ve seen Bright Eyes live multiple times and was even lucky enough to catch Desaparecidos once or twice but last night was my first chance to catch Conor as a solo act. After one too many drinks with my friends prior to the show my friends and I stumbled the couple of block to the venue. I claimed my usual spot against the wall on the floor of The Palace Theatre as my friends took their seats up in the balcony. I patiently waited to be hit by a wave of emotion and, within the first note of Conor’s first song, that wave hit me and I fell flat on my ass.
Conor’s music is calming while still having a sense of pure energy to it and the amount of passion that radiates from the stage when he plays is astonishing. His voice is soothing and could easily lull you to sleep but it’s his sense of passion that keeps you awake. His stage presence during last night’s show wasn’t anything to write home about but that simplicity is what makes it him. Other than a couple jaunts around the stage while carrying his guitar, there wasn’t much by way of movement from Conor or the rest of his band. He didn’t need it and neither did the crowd. The older crowd didn’t want or need any distractions from his iconic music and everyone on stage seemed to respect that.
I wasn’t quite sure what the set list was going to be like. I mean, the show was billed as a “Conor Oberst” solo show but I would by lying if I said the allure of hearing a Bright Eyes song or two wasn’t the main reason I was there. As much as I love everything that Conor has ever done, Bright Eyes will forever be my favorite project of his. As the band struck up the second song of the set, I instantly recognized it as Bright Eyes’ “Four Winds” and it was enough to bring a tear to my eye.
Hearing the seven Bright Eyes songs throughout the set was definitely the highlight of my night. I have such a deep emotion connection to those songs and could literally name what breakup each song became my soundtrack for. Although that was really the main reason I went to last night’s show, I definitely fell in love with some of his newer, solo songs. I knew Conor was busy writing music on his own and I knew that I would probably love it but, let’s be honest, Bright Eyes was just too big of a deal in my life for me to really care. After hearing some of the new songs last night, I definitely think I’ll be spending my weekend checking out some of the newer stuff.
His 16 song set was followed up by a two song encore. The older crowd was polite as they clapped between songs and shouted their thanks to Conor for coming to town and for giving us the gift of his music and words. It was a calm night and there were more people swaying along to the music than getting drinks at the bar. Although it’s not an atmosphere that I typically enjoy when it comes to concerts, it was the perfect atmosphere for a Conor Oberst show. The calmness of the crowd matched the calmness of the music. Everything about the show was laid back. You wanted to lean against the wall and cry? You could do that! You wanted to sit in the balcony with your wife or husband and sip on a beer? You could do that! You didn’t want to pay attention to the show at all and wanted to browse Facebook? You could do that too! It was a beautiful setting for a beautiful show.
Last night wasn’t an exciting show but it was a perfect show. I leaned against the wall with my drink in my hand and just took it all in. There were times when I shed a tear or two, times when the smile on my face was so big that my cheeks hurt, and maybe a couple drunk texts to an ex. I was on a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the show but it was exactly the way a Conor Oberst concert should be. It was truly a show I will never forget.