The People's Key
Author: Matthew Eisman
Bright Eyes played the first of two nights at Radio City Music Hall on March 8. Brights Eyes, led by Conor Oberst, recently released their first album in four years with The People's Key. While Oberst has been active, Bright Eyes as a band has emerged as a different entity. At Radio City Music Hall, Bright Eyes were an energetic force of a band playing with spirited conviction.I was fearing the worst, that I would be let down after two solid openers. WILD FLAG and Superchunk were spirited, punk fueled drives forward. I was leery that Bright Eyes could not follow up that energy. Bright Eyes surprised many and ushered in a new era for the band. The set began with a metaphysical voice over detailing progress, the Garden of Eden, other dimensions, super universes, and balance in nature. As the band made its way on stage, the set began with "Firewall." An LED wall backed the band, as points of light raced across the screen during the song. The mic stands were lit up with Oberst looking like a futuristic preacher giving a sermon. It fit perfectly with the voice over, a feeling as if we were going through a trip to space; somewhere new."Jejune Stars" continued the trip through The People's Key. Bright Eyes showed backbone, eager to reclaim its place, the band pushes forth. While Oberst gets the attention, the band was doing a solid job of shining along with him. The dual drummers, the keys, horns, guitars, and bass all created a propulsive sound that complimented the intensity of Oberst. Conor Oberst's reputation is that of a downbeat and fragile singer-songwriter, however, This was not the Bright Eyes at Radio City Music Hall. This was definitely a good thing.The bombastic sound matched the stage set up. It was interesting to see Bright Eyes backed by an LED screen with columns and flashing lights. While I enjoyed looking around, I would have preferred a more toned down approach. Oberst pushed Bright Eyes' music to the forefront and that should have been the star of the night.Bright Eyes straddled their whole catalog of work that started when Oberst was just a teenager. Oberst said "this song is 16 years old?take our hand and walk with us down memory lane" before "Falling Out of Love at This Volume."Oberst quested for understanding, a place and at times railed against the absurdity of modernity. This simple search was passionately pursued at Radio City Music Hall and The People's Key felt like Oberst's picking up where he left off with a renewed intensity. Instead of searching within himself, Oberst is now in tune with the people around him. It's an interesting shift that sees the band reaching new heights. The band ended their main set with "Lua."For the encore, the band came on and were comfortably into "Goldmine Gutted" before Oberst made his way back and greeted the fans standing at the foot of the stage. Oberst continued to sing to the audience, grateful for the reaction and humbled by the love from the crowd, and giving praise to WILD FLAG and Superchunk. The crowd popped for "Lover I Don't Have to Love" and the set roared to a close with "Road to Joy" and "One For You, One For Me."After two hours on stage, Bright Eyes made it clear about his search. He sung in the people's key at Radio City Music Hall. Older Oberst introspection has shifted gaze onto the outside. There was new life in Bright Eyes and Oberst was leading the way.Openers WILD FLAG and Superchunk symbolized the old guard. Despite being a new band, WILD FLAG are indie veterans led by Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney. The band played two small shows at The Rock Shop before opening the Bright Eyes shows at RCMH. The band had some surfing riffs and fun stage presence and the songs bounced around as much as the band did on stage. It was a brash attack that featured some noisy psychedelic rock.Superchunk's punching spirit picked up where WILD FLAG left off. The band's sound felt like an old friend, even after all these years you pick up right where you left off. The band recently released Majesty Shredding, its first album in nine years. The band played a short set which featured "Learn to Surf," "My Back Feels Weird," "Hello Hawk" and ending with "Slay Motherfucker."