The People's Key
Author: Michael Zonenashvili
3/12/11 | Melophobe | www.melophobe.com | Record Review
"I wrote this song in 1995. Shit." "Shit," is right, Conor. It's been a while since you were a fifteen-year-old. Now you're grown up, along with Bright Eyes, and now you're retiring. But listen, we're not mad. At the House of Blues, you played everything we wanted to hear, for what's most likely your last appearance in Boston under the Bright Eyes moniker. Don't let those people in the crowd screaming "Lua!" or "FIRST DAY OF MY LIFE!" downplay the impact of a twenty-five song, career-spanning set. You went out with a bang. And dare I say it, Conor, you looked like you were having fun. But I won't tell anyone.Conor Oberst and the rest of Bright Eyes, featuring Nate Walcott and buddy Mike Mogis, walked onto a stage illuminated with thousands of LED lights, two quarter-band shells, and the rest of the seven-piece band. The band trekked through new songs from The People's Key, while revisiting everything from Lifted to Cassadaga. Electronic songs from Digital Ash In a Digital Urn and Fevers and Mirrors were made full with two drummers and multiple keyboardists, including the vocalist of opener the Mynabirds. Songs like "Take it Easy(Love Nothing)" and "Arc of Time" packed an extra punch with the full band. Conor's wavering voice, coming out of a now grown-up body, still exhibited a shaken half-confidence that made us fall in love with Bright Eyes in the first place. The crowd's cathartic screams from the old "Let's fuck shit up boys, make some noise!" to the new words of "Shell Games"' "Everyone on the count of three!" were loud and heartfelt, from the youngest person in the crowd to those who have listened to Bright Eyes from the beginning. The unexpected playful sing-along of "Bowl of Oranges" contrasted beautifully with the knock-you-on-your-ass drums of "Jejune Stars."Bright Eyes had their bases covered. For those who wanted to see Conor sitting there with an acoustic guitar, it might've been a disappointment. But he did sit at a piano for a solo performance of "Ladder Song," which may have featured the only instances of him being sharp or flat. But, trust me, his imperfections made the performance that much better.And I'm going to reveal your secret, Conor. You were having a blast. The crowd was pleasantly surprised to see him thrash around the stage, hear his playful banter (including calling out a "Freebird" screamer), and give some smiles and laughter between songs. For someone who's been headlining shows for years, he seemed almost surprised to be playing in front of such a large audience, but he delivered. What once might have been a gloomy, dark concert experience was illuminated not only by the lights on the stage, but also by the evolution of Oberst's music to now. The crowd soaked in the nostalgia of the old hits, but enthusiastically received the newer ones. It was the right way to go out, ending with "One For You, One For Me." The lyrics were relevant; the show was for us and for Bright Eyes, perhaps a last validation of a sixteen-year career. Bye-Bye, Bright Eyes. I'll miss you.The Mynabirds opened the show, offering country-tinged indie rock, bordering on being the new Rilo Kiley. The band's harmonies and musicianship were completely down packed, as they played tunes from their 2010 release What We Lose In The Fire, We Gain in the Flood. At some points, the only thing I could really ask for was a lead guitar, to punctuate the songs in areas that just called for solo riffing or a little more melody. Yet these Saddle Creek cohorts of Bright Eyes were a great choice of opener. Anyone who likes Four Winds by Bright Eyes was definitely feeling the music of The Mynabirds.