Reviews

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Author: Jonathan Tully
02/05/2005 | Palm Beach Post | Live Show Preview
It had been almost two years since Conor Oberst had performed in Miami as Bright Eyes, but in that time, so much had changed.

Oberst had moved from Omaha, Neb., to New York, performed on the Vote For Change tour with heavyweights like Bruce Springsteen, has been named to the bill for the upcoming Coachella Music Festival and not only released two new albums (I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash In A Digital Urn) to mostly good reviews but saw both albums debut in the top 20.

So it wasn't surprising that Oberst seemed to have a much more confident stride and command of the stage Thursday at Miami's Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.

In 2003, Bright Eyes already had a good following and knew how to put on an excellent concert - the show at the Manuel Artime Theater in Little Havana was enthralling. But the 2005 version of Oberst clearly believes he's where he belongs - out in front, getting his emotionally charged message across no matter what happens.

And plenty happened. With the show being only the third on Bright Eyes' tour supporting I'm Wide Awake (his tour supporting Digital Urn will take place during the summer), there were a few hiccups, some electronic, a couple Oberst-made due to his own intensity.

Perhaps the most memorable self-inflicted glitch happened during When The President Talks To God, a particularly vicious polemic that he dedicated to President Bush's younger brother, Gov. Jeb Bush. Oberst, who mostly plays an acoustic guitar, played the strings so hard he drew blood.

Apparently, like many finger-picking guitar players, Oberst uses acrylic nails on his fingertips to get a proper sound. Unfortunately, he blew out one of the tips, prompting both blood and a request: "If anyone knows a good nail shop in Tampa (the next tour stop), I'd love to know where it is!"

But he shook off the injury and delivered a set that had both a generous helping of new songs - some even newer than those on I'm Wide Awake, which was released Jan. 25 - and a good sprinkling of older stuff.

The audience, mostly young adults, seemed to enjoy Oberst's every move, from climbing up on the bass drum of drummer Jason Boesel (prompting Boesel to throw up his sticks and scamper off stage) down to Oberst's occasional sips of beer.

But he - and the audience - saved the best for the encore. After his heartfelt ballad Lua, Oberst and band broke out Bowl of Oranges from 2002, a song that many audience members felt compelled to sing along with, giving the tune a choral quality it hadn't had before.

Bright Eyes then rolled into Road to Joy, based on Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. However, Beethoven probably never envisioned Ode to Joy devolving into a cacophonous sea of feedback, as Oberst slammed his electric guitar into his amp. He then tried to bound off the drum riser, but tripped and fell on his back, his head resting on a monitor. He continued to strum, however, and after getting helped up by a roadie, waved to the crowd to signify he was OK - and that the show was done.

The opening acts had mixed results - Oberst's fellow Omaha natives Neva Dinova produced a well-received mix of country and David Lynch-ian gloom, but Seattle's Jesse Sykes, while putting together a lovely set of songs, couldn't really hold the crowd's interest with her down-tempo ballads.


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