I caught the end of the opening set from Toronto's Ohbijou, a band whose debut, Swift Feet For Troubling Times, I like a lot. They're also a band I keep missing. Either they play too early or are on a bill I'm just not compelled to make the effort to see. It's a shame I didn't take the time earlier. The ultra-young median age of the collective betrays their stellar onstage chemistry and confidence. If the Barmitzvah Brothers were supremely talented musicians, they'd be Ohbijou. Casey Mecija has a voice to be reckoned with and the songwriting skills to back it up. It's only a matter of time before they're one of the most talked about bands in the country. That they looked genuinely surprised and overwhelmed by the wild applause after their final song only added to their charm.
Oberst wandered to the mic about 40 minutes later underneath a swatch of long hair that rendered him almost unrecognizable. Backed by most of the same players who formed Bright Eyes at Massey Hall in June, Oberst was less talkative during this visit, but his energy during the songs was way higher. The set featured a handful of Cassadaga tracks — including current single "Four Winds" and "Soul Singer In A Session Band" — that were skillfully recreated by Bright Eyes' meticulously assembled collection of multi-instrumentalists. Also included were the bulk of the B-sides from the Four Winds EP, which is out March 6.
The sold-out Opera House, which was having one of its not-really-packed-sold-out nights, seemed a little subdued, which seems to happen with every winter show at the venue. See the Bloc Party review from 2005 for more on that. But it's not like "We Are Nowhere And It's Now" and John Prine's "Crazy As A Loon" would burn the house down during any time of the year. They're intelligent alt.country numbers, not dance-punk songs.
The biggest response of the night was predictably reserved for the encore, which featured two surprises. One was the inclusion of an incredibly shambolic run-through of the Britt Daniel collaboration "Spent On Rainy Days." Though it wasn't note perfect, was one of those great songs that you never get to hear in a live setting. The second was the appearance of guitar virtuoso and Memphis Rhythm Band member Teeny Hodges, who provided solos on the singalong finale, "Laura Laurent."
It would have been nice to see the group do a little more of Cassadaga, but it's hard to nitpick a particularly strong performance — one that came despite a lukewarm audience, no less. For those who didn't make it in to the warm-up gig, Bright Eyes should be back at a bigger venue in the spring.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3