Reviews

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Author: Jessica Berthold
02/05/2005 | Morning Call | Live Show Preview
He had them at "Good evening," but Conor Oberst didn't let on.

The 24-year-old musician, arguably the indie scene's most brilliant star, and his much-admired folk-rock/alt-country ensemble, known as Bright Eyes, were nothing short of superb last weekend, performing for an enraptured audience of mostly twentysomethings at a packed Academy of Music in Philadelphia.

Concentrating on material from the first of two newly released Bright Eyes discs, "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning," Oberst did more than just sing his phenomenal songs during the 75-minute show. He brought them to life. For example, by biting off lines such as "We must stare into a crystal ball and only see our past," he added an extra edge to the rough-hewn opener, "At the Bottom of Everything." His sensitive reading of "Old Soul Song" not only underscored the longing for meaning that underpins the tune, but gave it a stately, ragged glory. And by adroitly tight-roping between cold realism and warm sentiment on "Lua," he revealed the human beings behind the drug dependency. Given his exceptional lyric-writing skills, it would be understandable if Oberst kept Bright Eyes' volume tightly in check. But on several occasions -- "Train Under Water," "Everything Must Belong Somewhere," "Another Travellin' Song" and "Road to Joy" in particular -- Oberst and Bright Eyes showed they could blister as well as salve. Oddly enough, the song that sent the biggest charge though the crowd was performed by Oberst soloing on acoustic guitar. The as-yet-unrecorded, Dylanesque "When the President Talks to God" was punctuated several times by applause, thanks to biting lyrics such as "When the president talks to God/Do they drink near-beer and go play golf/When they pick which country we should invade/And which Muslim soulsstill can be saved?"


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