The People's Key
Author: Chris Martins
8/6/11 | Spin.com | www.spin.com | Live Show Preview
On Friday evening, Bright Eyes handily proved that when it comes to highly literate, wholly emotive, personal-meets-political rock and roll poetry, the Omaha outfit is still the gold standard.With the Mountain Goats wrapping their set directly across the field only minutes before, it was impossible not to compare. While John Darnielle's spare lineup placed extra emphasis on his every word, and he generously gave grins and nods to those who would sing along, Conor Oberst simply put his head down and put in work. For a guy who redefined "emo" for a generation ("emo" here being a genre misnomer, hence the "redefine" part), Oberst doesn't emanate a whiff of preciousness these days. This is perhaps owing to time spent in the Monsters of Folk supertrio or his more straight-ahead Mystic Valley Band, but at Lollapalooza the credit was due to the group that backed him ? five other players who displayed a mastery over at least twice as many instruments.The full-bodied sound was applied evenly to favorites spanning a considerable amount of the Bright Eyes oeuvre, from 2002's moody, harrowing "Lover I Don't Have to Love," which ended with a mournful trumpet solo from Nate Walcott, to the piano-driven totally epic-feeling current single "Shell Games."But the best songs came from 2005's I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. "Old Soul Song (For a New World Order)" was reborn in a hail of ringing keys, buzzing pedal steel and heartwarming female backups. Better yet, "Landlocked Blues," which brilliantly juxtaposes scenes from the Iraq War against a failing relationship ("If you walk away, I'll walk away") manage to wring out a few tears.