The People's Key
Author: Oran Mor
"THIS is for anyone who's learning a new discipline right now," declared Conor Oberst, the Omaha singer-songwriter who fronts and essentially is the group Bright Eyes, before his song Beginner's Mind."Try not to learn too much, you're probably just perfect the way you are now." What an epically Bright Eyes thing to say. The dark-haired, clear-skinned 30-year-old might be an object of swooning female desire and the leader of an acclaimed and successful band, but his music is forever that of the honest loser made good, or at least made cheerfully content with his own mundanity.Oberst's band, all six of them, make a kind of symphonic folk drenched in bittersweet euphoria, a stark contrast to the reedy uncertainty of the singer's voice. When Oberst sings of his "failed revolution", his "old friend, a constant, the blues" during Cartoon Blues, he's singing with the downcast fragility of any one of us on our worst day; and when he roars and yelps and stamps the stage during the coda of The Calendar Hung Itself, moving in and out of a pleading chorus of You Are My Sunshine, there's an almost religious acceptance of self in the air.Considering the venue's provenance, raising the notion of communion would have been too easy. But something special passed between artist and crowd here, during the sad trumpet call of Lua (even the bar staff were applauding at the end) and the primal screaming hymn to self-destruction Road to Joy.On the way out, a young woman's tears streamed down her face. We all felt the same inside.