The People's Key
Author: Kailyn Terlato
3/9/11 | Long Island Examiner | www.examiner.com | Live Show Preview
So when I first scored tickets to see Bright Eyes live in concert, I imagined that it would be two hours of watching frontman Conor Oberst in a Kurt Cobain/MTV Unplugged kind of way: sitting on a stool, long dark hair over one of his eyes pouring his heart out in deliberate emo fashion over an acoustic guitar while the band backed him up in quiet melancholy.Boy, was I wrong!Oberst and Co. brought the house down last night with their phenomenal concert that spanned decades of their catalog. Out of the seven songs I'd hoped they would play, they knocked out five-not a bad ratio! Bright Eyes has a surprising rock energy that when coupled with their gritty and soulful lyrics, provides a life-changing experience, especially for anyone who is not as familiar with their material. The band made sure to cover most of the fan favorites off of their amazing albums Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, as well as about half of the material from their new album, The People's Key and some of their older tunes as well. "Shell Games", the first song for which there is a music video from Key, was even more incredible live than it already is on the album. The synthesizer cut through the crowd until everyone was roused to chime in with "the count of three!"The poignancy with which Oberst delivered the heartbreaking "Poison Oak" was palpable, and it was impressive almost to the point of tears that he was able to quiet most of the venue down with just his melodic voice and an acoustic guitar. "Lua" was performed similarly, only with a slowed down tempo and a strong trumpet highlight that made Oberst seem like a gifted jazz singer in the blue lights that enveloped him."Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" and "Gold Mine Gutted" were a surprise to the crowd as well, and were sung along with equal vigor as the other gems in the setlist.I was pleasantly surprised that "Road to Joy" and "Lover I Don't Have to Love" were included in the band's encore. Both of these songs were perfect fits for a live show. "Road to Joy" had the crescendo necessary to get the few remaining sitters to their feet, and everyone was more than happy to "fu*k it up" and "make some noise!". "Lover I Don't Have to Love" seemed as if it was meant to be played live with its crisp drums, thundering bass and tickled ivories.Oberst is a master with words and a true inspiration. His humble demeanor and light comedy made him truly a joy to watch. His words are honest and he pours emotion into them with such passion that you can't help but be dragged right into his scenarios. The band is an example of quality at its finest, with their plethora of instruments and their keen ability to mold their sound into a rich and indulgent instrumental backdrop. If you have tickets for tonight's Radio City show and you are a moderate to die-hard fan of Bright Eyes, trust me when I tell you that they will not disappoint. If you are not familiar with much of their work and are being dragged along by a friend, seeing them tonight may just result in some songs being added to your permanent collection.Opening for Bright Eyes last night were Wild Flag, an all-girl group who held their own and were cited by Oberst as being "amazing", followed by Superchunk, who played some of their fan favorites along with new material from the first album they have released in nine years.Be warned: if you have work tomorrow and you live on Long Island, you will probably need a 32 oz. coffee to get you through the day. The opening acts started promptly at 8:00, with Bright Eyes taking the stage at 10:00, finishing up (with barely any breaks!) at midnight. But it will be all worth it, trust me! Bright Eyes is just as amazing (arguably moreso) in concert than they are on record. I feel quite privileged to have seen this amazing band in concert and at a venue which was the perfect size for them in both crowd and acoustics. I will definitely be sure to catch Bright Eyes again sometime in the future. Tonight's show is sadly sold out so if you missed them this time around, definitely be sure to catch them the next time they are in the area. Heck, follow them on the road if you wish--they are worth every penny spent.