Share This



By: Will Lamborn

You must have Adobe Flash Player to use this function.

In anticipation of his upcoming solo album, Conor Oberst made the trek down to Buenos Aires, playing to a packed house at La Trastienda Club on July 19th.  On a tour that passes through a good portion of South America before heading back north for a heap of stateside dates, Oberst offered up a mix of Bright Eyes material and songs from his self-titled record that drops August 5th on Merge.  Conor Oberst was recorded over the winter in Tepoztlan, Mexico in a makeshift mountain villa studio with The Mystic Valley Band, a close-knit group of musicians among them Nik Freitas, Taylor Hollingsworth, Macey Taylor, Nate Walcott and Jason Boesel.  On Saturday night, Oberst was joined drummer/background vocalist Boesel and Nate Walcott on keys and trumpet.

The group opened their set with a rendition of “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now” from I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (2005).  They continued straight into “Get Well Cards,” a cut from the solo record with undeniable Dylan stylings (a comparison Oberst has often been subjected to), then onwards to “Four Winds” from Cassadaga (2007).  Throughout the evening, songs recorded under the Bright Eyes moniker fit easily alongside those to be released as a solo artist- not surprising when one considers that Bright Eyes has essentially been Oberst with a revolving crew of accompanying musicians.  Regardless, the solo pieces seemed more a logical extension of the last couple Bright Eyes records than an abruptly different artistic direction signified by setting that name aside.

The Mystic Valley Band started to settle in with a mid-set cluster of songs.  Drums and keys fleshed out “The First Day of My Life” at a slower, unhurried tempo.  Older “Arienette” was reworked as a languid, dive-bar swing with swirling tension and menace- a show standout, including in the reflections of argentine friends unfamiliar with the source material.  Its anxious simmer was balanced by a relaxed take on the ambling ease of Lifted’s “Bowl of Oranges.” (2002) Oberst then quietly announced a song from the new album (banter was generally limited to “gracias” and “hola,” and a jetlagged admission to having been in town for less than twelve hours).  Left alone on stage with an acoustic, he commanded the attention of a silent crowd focused on every slight string-slap and sharpened consonant of “Milk Thistle,” the delicate closing track on Conor Oberst.  The band rejoined for an M. Ward cover and “Cleanse Song” to round out the set.

It wasn’t long before the crowd got everyone back on stage for an encore.  Oberst wandered over the keyboards, hunched over and punched out the music box melody of “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” while Boesel guided its palpably foreboding rhythm.  The country swing of  “You Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will.” included some subtle lyric-tinkering to tilt the dynamic of its lopsided romance.  Closer and fan favorite “Lua” was accentuated by keyboard swells and bright trumpet lines.  Walcott’s horn and versatile keyboard tones played an integral role throughout the show.  He enriched the group’s sound with melodic counterpoints and added a welcome extra timbre.

The last time I saw Bright Eyes play was back at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC, soon after Lifted… had been released.  Several years down the road and thousands of miles away in the Paris of the South, Oberst seemed more leveled out, less overtly emotive, more self-assured.  The band moved through their set quickly and efficiently; in a manner that occasionally came across as rushed or distant, the latter perhaps in part for geography or language, but at the same time that saw Oberst as a songwriter continuously growing within his craft, winning over new audiences unmistakably faraway from his native Omaha.

Album stream:
Video stream:
(Or through YouTube):
Merge Records:



All opinions expressed by Will Lamborn are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

Become a Thirsty Friend:

Share This

Search Thirsty for:

© Stay Thirsty Media, Inc. 2006 - 2008
All Rights Reserved

Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Terms of Sale | Contact | Site Map