"Can you guys scream?" Oberst asked the crowd from the stage of the pristine Holland Performing Arts Center. "I feel so far away from you."
A couple songs later, the audience obliged.
During a raucous version of 2005's "I Believe In Symmetry," the crowd closed in on Oberst little by little until a hundred or so fans were pressed near the stage.
By the time the singer-guitarist and his sprawling 12-piece band started their three-song encore with "Gold Mine Gutted," more and more fans had trickled near the stage, dancing and flailing their arms to the beat.
"This is more like it!" Oberst told the crowd.
The 27-year-old Creighton Prep grad was back in his hometown as part of a U.S. tour in support of his new album, "Cassadaga" -- the No. 4 record in the country this week.
During a stellar 90-minute performance, Oberst's group -- which included a string quartet and two woodwind players -- filled the Holland Center with music that was edgy, elegant and exhilarating.
The concert, which leaned heavily on new songs from "Cassadaga," was appealing to listen to and watch. A series of projected images designed by Lincoln artist Joey Lynch spilled off a trio of huge screens onto the stage floor and kept the show visually interesting.
Band members, who all wore white, led off the night with a pair of new songs, "Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed)" and "Hot Knives."
Performed live, the new songs from "Cassadaga" sounded much more vibrant and visceral than on the album, largely due to the deft drumming of percussionists Rachel Blumberg and Janet Weiss.
Absent from Thursday's show was longtime Bright Eyes multi-instrumentalist and producer Mike Mogis. Oberst told the crowd that Mogis couldn't be there because he was attending his brother's pre-nuptial dinner.
Nate Walcott, the band's other full-time member, played keyboards and horns, providing nuances and textures throughout the show, which drew a crowd of about 2,000.
A few older songs made their way into the set list, including 2002's "False Advertising" and 2005's "First Day of My Life." The latter song, originally a mellow and folky piece, was upbeat and carried by the propulsive drums.
Oberst, who has been making music for half his life, has come a long way since playing at local coffeeshops. His concert Thursday for the hometown crowd showcased an affecting live performer whose music continues to pack an emotional punch.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / Deluxe CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3