Saddle Creek | Bright Eyes | Reviews


The People's Key

3/10/11 | | | Live Show Preview
It's hard to believe that it has been four years since Conor Oberst last recorded under his longtime moniker Bright Eyes, an eternity for a guy that is known for his prolific output. Since the 2007 release of Cassadaga, Oberst has stayed busy by releasing two "solo" albums of breezy, folk-rock with the Mystic Valley Band along with his contributions to the Monsters Of Folk _ a band which features his pals Jim James, M. Ward and Mike Mogis. The Omaha native, who has dusted off his Bright Eyes project for the occasional benefit gig in the last few years, finally deemed it time to return to his roots in 2011 with the release of his seventh studio album, The People's Key. The album, which may or may not be his last as Bright Eyes depending on who you want to believe, is a sonic departure from his recent work. Oberst has traded in his acoustic guitar for an electric, and his Americana-drenched sound for a maudlin, synth-driven, straight ahead rock one. Last week, Oberst and his latest version of Bright Eyes _ which has featured a rotating lineup over the years, but typically includes multi-instrumentalists Nate Walcott and Mike Mogis _ pulled into the Big Apple for a two-night stand at the majestic and cavernous Radio City Music Hall. It was a curious night to be a Bright Eyes fan as the crowd was vocally and visibly excited for the band's live return to the room they had last played in November of '07. However, the audience's enthusiasm seemed to ebb and flow over the course of the two hour show in sync with the crowd's familiarity with the set list, which included a number of deep cuts. As the lights dimmed and the band took the stage shortly after 10PM, the recorded conspiracy theory ramblings that kick off The People's Key rang out over the PA just before Bright Eyes launched into Firewall. There seemed to be a conscious effort made by Oberst to distance himself from his jangly, roots-rock sound, deciding instead to focus on songs from his catalog that were more in tune with that of his new album. All in all, the band leaned heavily on its recent LP playing eight of its ten tracks. Oberst reached into his vast songbook for deep cuts like Padraic My Prince from his 1998 album Letting Off The Happiness, Tip Of The Scales and The Calendar Hung Itself from 2000 s Fevers & Mirrors, Trees Get Wheeled Away from the rarities collection Noise Floor as well as two tracks from Digital Ash In A Digital Urn. The rarities were performed much to the delight of the the hardcore Bright Eyes fans at the sold-out venue, but seemingly to the chagrin of those that were clamoring for more of what could be constituted as "the hits." While there where no shouts of "Judas" when Oberst was playing rowdy, electronica-tinged rock music, the biggest ovations of the night came when he strapped on his acoustic guitar. A three-song run of Bowl Of Oranges, Old Soul Song and Poison Oak was particularly well received. There was nothing fundamentally flawed with what was going on, on stage, as Bright Eyes delivered a tight, well-paced show. What seemed to be lacking on this night was any sense of intimacy. You could certainly attribute that to the size of the near 6,000-capacity room, but it also had to something to do with the lack of warmth within the new material. At times the tunes came across as a little too slick and a little to polished for an artist that fans have come to love for his confessional songwriting and impassioned vocals and arrangements. Set: Firewall , Jejune Stars, Take It Easy (Love Nothing), Hot Knives, An Attempt To Tip the Scales, Padraic My Prince, We Are Nowhere and It's Now, Shell Games, Approximate Sunlight, Arc Of Time (Time Code), Triple Spiral, Cleanse Song, Trees Get Wheeled Away, No One Would Riot For Less, Beginner's Mind, Bowl of Oranges, Old Soul Song, Poison Oak, The Calendar Hung Itself, Ladder Song Encore: Lover I Don't Have to Love, Road To Joy, One for You One for Me
The People's Key

The People's Key

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