It was a beautiful summer evening to hear great music at the Iroquois Amphitheater last night. Conor Oberst must have been feeling the buzz too, because I wasn't expecting a Bright Eyes show to be so heavy. Sharing the stage with them were Dawes who released their second album yesterday and performed at ear-X-tacy before last night's show. They come close to a modern Band with California style that pulses straight out of their bluesy, Malibu roots.
By sunset, it was time for Bright Eyes to take the stage. Having never attended one of their shows before, I was expecting a mostly Conor-centered experience. But the addition of a larger band aided songs dating back to I'm Wide Awake and Lifted to sound more fleshy and vibrant than their studio counterparts. He often played around the wording of these older tunes and didn't appear bored from playing them over the years. Moreover the defiant nature in his earlier music wasn't lost, but became more refined and powerful.
Even though there was only one "MARRY ME CONOR" sign, it was clear that his fanship runs deep in Louisville. To many, he is presented as a prophet. It's a unique trait he has always been able to maintain as a songwriter; people tend to hang on extra hard to his words. In the instances where Conor performed without the band ("Poison Oak," "Lua") to a quieted amphitheater, you could hear shouts of approval and agreement amongst the crowd as if he was preaching to us some kind of truth. The raw subject matter in his songs definitely make it seem that way and one could easily get lost in the emotions they may evoke. This only goes to show what a great songwriter he truly is, unknowingly touching the hearts of many people young and confused.
Conor has had past connections to Louisville as he collaborated with MMJ's Jim James in Monsters of Folk and played at Headliners last year. He explained that "A Machine Spiritual" from the new Bright Eyes record was inspired by Jim and dedicated its performance even though MMJ is currently off touring. The set ended with a cheers to the audience in "One for You, One for Me," the closing song on The People's Key and a good wrap-up for the encore.
VIDEO: Bright Eyes- "Four Winds"
Photos: Lara Kinne and Emilee Starr