Reviews

The People's Key

Author: John Soeder
8/3/11 | Clevrland Plain Dealer | www.cleveland.com | Live Show Preview
Not even technical difficulties could dim Bright Eyes. Toward the end of the alt-folk-rock group's sold-out concert Tuesday night at Cleveland's House of Blues, overheated equipment temporarily wreaked havoc with the production. Not to worry. While the problem was fixed, bandleader Conor Oberst had all he needed to hold the crowd's attention: an acoustic guitar, a quivering voice and heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics. He asked for quiet and launched into "Lua," a spellbinding ballad about nighttime indiscretions and morning-after regrets. Fans immediately sang along. "You guys already broke the rule!" Oberst playfully scolded, then started the song again. The unplanned and unplugged interlude turned out to be a highlight of the two-hour show. "Four Winds," a twangy midtempo number, kicked off the proceedings. Oberst, 31, had an unruly mop of hair in his eyes. Sporting a gray cardigan, an untucked white button-down shirt, torn jeans and sneakers, this erstwhile emo poster boy from Omaha, Neb., could've passed for the preppy nephew of the Cure's Robert Smith. Multi-instrumentalists Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott fleshed out Bright Eyes' expansive sound nicely, with Mogis' pedal-steel playing evoking "Dark Side of the Moon"-era Pink Floyd during "Approximate Sunlight" and Walcott's trumpet flourishes providing an elegant counterpoint to Oberst's vocals during "Lua." Bass player Andy LeMaster, keyboardist Laura Burhenn and drummers Clark Baechle and Scott MacPherson completed the latest (and perhaps last) version of the band, which got its start in the mid-1990s. Oberst, who also has a thriving solo career and affiliations with various other acts, including Monsters of Folk, has been dropping hints lately about disbanding Bright Eyes. If this was indeed the last hurrah here for the group, it went out with a bang. At the end of "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," Oberst twirled madly around the stage, entangling his guitar cable on a stool and knocking it over. He switched to an electric piano for several tunes, including "Shell Games," a catchy soul-searcher with a four-on-the-floor disco beat. It's from "The People's Key," the most recent Bright Eyes album. Unfortunately, the band didn't play its wonderful new single "Jejune Stars," although several other new selections went over well. "Beginner's Mind" built dramatically, with a sweaty Oberst slashing furiously at his guitar and itching his neck. "Approximate Sunlight" struck a moody chord, via a groove that approximated a wind-up toy winding down. The set list didn't skimp on older crowd-pleasers, either. Concertgoers didn't merely chime in on the likes of "Something Vague" and "Landlocked Blues." They shouted Oberst's philosophical musings back at him. It was well past midnight by the time the band bid farewell with a three-song encore, including a raucous "Road to Joy." Oberst got in touch with his inner Jimi Hendrix for the latter song, which borrowed its melody from Beethoven and featured opening act the Mountain Goats on extra percussion. Between numbers, Oberst talked about walking around downtown Cleveland the previous evening. "There wasn't a lot going on," he teased. Leave it to Bright Eyes to rectify that situation, if only for one night, with a memorable performance. SET LIST: Four Winds Old Soul Song (For the New World Order) Trees Get Wheeled Away Something Vague Take It Easy (Love Nothing) Haile Selassie Lover I Don't Have to Love Shell Games Approximate Sunlight Arc of Time Falling Out of Love at This Volume Landlocked Blues Beginner's Mind If The Brakeman Turns My Way Cartoon Blues Hot Knives Lua June on the West Coast Another Travelin' Song The Calendar Hung Itself ENCORE: Gold Mine Gutted Road to Joy One for You, One for Me
The People's Key

The People's Key

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