Concert Review: Bright Eyes, 5/31/11

On Tuesday, Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nate Walcott came to The Knitting Factory to give Spokane possibly one last Bright Eyes concert. Now, don’t worry, if you still want to see Conor Oberst live, I’m sure there will be plenty more chances. However, he’s said that he wants to retire his long-time moniker and move on, meaning this is probably his last album/tour as Bright Eyes. Knowing this, this concert was a big freaking deal to me.

When people hear about a Bright Eyes concert, they tend to assume it’ll be fairly chill as you listen to Conor serenade you with his folky tunes. If you’re one of those people, you would have been in for quite the surprise. Conor Oberst is one of the most passionate musicians out there, and his music encompasses much more than indie folk. He can be head-banging to “Jejune Stars” one minute and pouring his soul out with “Something Vague” the next. Every song he does live, even the folk numbers from I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, carries all the passionate energy that Conor’s signature talk-singing voice can muster.

But there’s much more to a Bright Eyes concert than that. Conor doesn’t just want you to feel his emotions. More than anything, Conor wants to make damn sure you have a good time. This was most evident with the tracks off his new album, The People’s Key. These songs are definitely the easiest to rock out to, and tracks like “Shell Games” almost seem to be written specifically to be experienced live. He played nearly every song from the album, including “Ladder Song”, which he closed his main set with. This was probably my favorite moment of the night. Conor wrote “Ladder Song” in a time of grief after a friend of his committed suicide. Seeing Conor, alone on the stage at his keyboard, play the song amongst complete silence in the audience, was one of the most moving performances I’ve seen. All the emotion and passion from the concert hit its zenith at this moment. However, the somber mood ended when Conor went back to rocking out with his encore.

Now, since Conor has been making music for most of his life, he has way too much material to go through everyone’s favorites in two hours. I’ll bet everyone who went to the show has one or two favorite songs he or she didn’t get to hear. For a lot of people, that song was probably “First Day of My Life”, or “Lua”. For me, it was my all-time favorite Bright Eyes song, “Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)”. But that should show you how great of a concert it was. Even though he neglected to play several of my favorites, I still consider this one of my favorite concerts I’ve been to. Or that just shows you how ridiculously obsessed with Bright Eyes I am.


And like I said, I wouldn’t worry about never getting to see Conor Oberst live. Even if he does end Bright Eyes, the man is constantly making music. But whether it’s the Mystic Valley Band, Monsters of Folk, or whatever his next project is, all I can really say is that if you’re a fan of his at all, you should definitely see him live.

– Dr. Derivative

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