Conor Oberst

Conor Oberst played the North Park Observatory on May 14th to a half-full crowd. He brought his new touring band, The Felice Brothers, and they embraced a nice southern folk element including organ, violin, and accordion.

Conor came out, ripped clothes and all, with a harmonica neck holder. The setlist contained a wide mix of music, mostly from his solo albums, particularly his newest Salutations, and his albums with the Mystic Valley Band. You really got a Bob Dylan-like sense from Oberst with his acoustic guitar in hand and his harmonica wailing between vocal gaps.

Conor Oberst has been folking around the music industry since he was around 13 years old, releasing classic albums full of brilliant songs under the monikers of Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, The Mystic Valley Band, and his own name. He has been heavily instrumental in running Saddle Creek Records along with a few other companies. Oberst had an extremely political side around 2008 earning the title of a protest writer, even writing a song called “When the President Talks to God”, which he played after addressing Donald Trump as an orange rat.

Recently he has been releasing music under his own name, releasing two albums this year including the stripped down demo-feeling Ruminations and the full band counterpart Salutations. Both are outstanding releases with Ruminations echoing the baron feelings of a lone man trapped in winter, struggling with his alcoholic and lustful sins, while Salutations includes many of the same songs (and a few more) but with a full band, heavy on 60’s organ and slide guitar. The lyrics focus mostly on an aging musician struggling with his position in life as well as the personal and mental problems that have haunted him for years.

While every space between songs was filled with heckling for Bright Eyes songs along with an odd amount of fan girl worship from women who should have gave that up years ago, only 5 Bright Eyes songs were played of the 20-song set. Sadly, people don’t know how to keep quiet during intimate acoustic moments. For example, when Conor was starting to sing a song, someone awkwardly shouted to see his penis. His response was to unzip his pants before pulling them back up and starting the song again–a funny way to defuse an awkward situation–but still cringy on behalf of the audience. He plays a bit of a jerk to the constant banter, often making remarks on the stupidity of the crowd, but rightfully so.

Despite the heckling, certain parts of the concert were sacred in the crowds reaction, specifically “Lua” (Conor brought out Phoebe Bridgers, the supporting female act, to help him sing), “Poison Oak”, and “Train Under Water”. It was interesting to see him play Bright Eyes songs mainly from the one album, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning; which is debatably his best (and most political), which made sense especially since he couldn’t help but be political when addressing the crowd throughout the night.

Finishing his set with Salutations track “Napalm”, Conor and the band ended with a burst of country-fueled energy that concluded a fairly well-rounded show for a musical icon who has been writing and performing for close to 20 years and has so many projects to represent.

Photos by: Lilay Cai
Review by: Evan Winiger