The People's Key
Author: Barry Thompson
3/12/11 | Boston Herald | www.bostonherald.com | Live Show Preview
Listening to Bright Eyes recordings might make you think that Conor Oberst is a bit of an introvert.Anyone who attended the filled House of Blues Thursday can attest that is not necessarily the case.In fact, it's his fans who are the shy, timid ones. Not that there weren't exceptions, but overall, it was hard to tell whether the spectators were rapt in slack-jawed awe of their Nebraskan idol, or if emo kids are simply polite by force of habit.Oberst, the sometimes indie heartthrob, sometimes rootsy balladeer, has hinted that the new, metaphysically presumptuous "The People's Key" could be the final Bright Eyes album. That sounds more newsworthy than it is. With all due respect to the band's other permanent members, multi-instrumentalists Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott, not many in Bright Eyes' audience would make a meaningful distinction between Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst and his Backup Band.Due to the darkened stage lighting, it was tricky to tell what was a keyboard and what was a pedal steel. We can definitely confirm the presence of an elaborate array of instruments, a handful of auxiliary players, and at times two drum kits getting clobbered simultaneously. The ensemble performed between half-shells illuminated with multicolored lights, while static-obscured images played on a video screen in the background.If Oberst isn't really depressed, he's definitely moody. In fact, he seems to be suffering from the kind of superhuman multiple personality disorder necessary to sing, "I could have been a famous singer, if I had someone else's voice" to a packed house of adoring followers, sans irony. Switching among guitars, piano and twitchy interpretative dances, he delivered the sinister, island-beat-fused "The Calendar Hung Itself..." and the unabashedly poppy, tailor-made for a romantic-comedy soundtrack "Shell Games" with equal gusto.About five minutes before bearing his soul with the tender "Poison Oak," Oberst chewed out some joker in the rafters who thought it amusing to yell "Freebird!" between every song."It obviously wasn't the first time I've heard that joke, but that you delivered it so passionately ? it's incredible," sneered Omaha's favorite son.Oberst raved about openers and labelmates the Mynabirds throughout his set. Frontlady Laura Burhenn, who also plays in Bright Eyes, certainly demanded attention with her husky, ghostly vocals. -Otherwise, Mynabirds didn't have enough else going on to warrant more than a "meh."