The People's Key
Author: John Aizlewood
2/15/11 | London Evening Standard | www.thisislondon.co.uk | Record Review
"Thanks for coming," chuckled Bright Eyes leader Conor Oberst, peering out over a packed Scala on Valentine's evening, "but shouldn't you be having an awkward meal with your significant other?"Hardly. Expanded from three to seven on stage, Bright Eyes have sold out the Albert Hall on June 26, so tickets for this tiny show were like gold dust. Since 1998, Omaha's Oberst has evolved from scratchy, unfocused electro-tinged Americana into a songwriting powerhouse, who will see his band's seventh album, The People's Key, reach the British and American Top 10 next week. Last night's tightly drilled, two-hour set featured two drummers and introduced new material, most magically the glorious pop-prog-punk, genre-busting jamboree that was Jejune Stars and the impossibly catchy Shell Games.But Oberst was in generous mood too and the new fare was punctuated by highlights from the back catalogue, such as the Beethoven-influenced Road To Joy; Bowl Of Oranges featuring Nate Walcott's mournful trumpet and the mass singalong that was Lover, I Don't Have To Love.For all the expectations they raise, large acts playing smaller venues often ends in tears. If there were any tears last night, they were only of joy at seeing a band in touching distance of greatness at such close quarters. Spellbinding.