Bright Eyes | 10.19.07

brighteyes.jpg"This is sort of a selfish song—well, I guess they all are. My old tour manager has a joke that goes, ‘You want to know how Bright Eyes warms up for a show? Me Me Me Me Me Me.’ I fired him."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

w/Andrew Bird
Chicago Theatre

Bright Eyes and I have missed each other for seven years now. I have justified this void in my concert-going career by taking any negative show reviews seriously and have contented myself with every live version, b-side, and cover available. Now, having outgrown the boy equivalent to the 15-year-old girls’ screaming "I love you, Conor," after the sub-sub-par Cassadaga, and with Bright Eyes’ packing historic theaters, it’s funny that I can finally say that I saw the band with Andrew Bird at the Chicago Theatre—and it was a great concert.

With the first song, Andrew Bird was already serenading the growing audience with his infamous violin-whistle one-two punch. Friday night’s show marked the first time Bright Eyes and Bird (an unusual but stellar match-up) have played together, and an impressed Conor Oberst dedicated "Method Acting’ to Bird after professing his longtime appreciation for his records. Bird would begin a song as a lone duck, whistling to himself, on a center stage, and then quickly loop his way into an orchestral masterpiece.

Bird enchanted his hometown with key songs "Nervous Tic Motion" and "Opposite Day," with a few hidden surprises: the traditional blues song from Fingerlings "Lamp Trimmed," and the impressive, multi-part new song, "Section 8 City." The song fades from an upbeat, tropical melody with a "Don’t Worry Be Happy"-esque whistle into a long, sad outro. By the eighth song, Bird was scratching his head, deciding which songs to pull out in order to satisfy the generous one-hour slot. His set list was a smart consistency of solid songs, but absent of true hits like "Fake Palindromes," "Heretic," and "Measuring Cups." The standout for me was "Section 8 City."

I’ve seen a few great shows this October—Peter and the Wolf, Architecture in Helsinki, Grizzly Bear/Beach House, and Diplo—however, no concert in over a year matches the excitement level of seeing an idol like Oberst. Bright Eyes kept up the excitement level, and by 9 p.m., "Attempt to Tip" filled the grand opera house. Before Oberst embraced the sold-out crowd, he had already covered the rollicking, story-driven "Travelin’ Song," the Cassadaga hit "Four Winds," and the BE essential "Poison Oak."

Oberst was in a talkative mood, explaining songs and sharing anecdotes. He displayed his awkward wit in his intro to "You Will" by saying, "I don’t know if anyone here ever had a childhood sweetheart…when you were a child." "You Will" was a definite show highlight that he altered a bit lyrically by replacing lines, such as, "Now I write when I’m away/ letters that you’ll never read" with "letters you refuse to read."

Oberst admitted to switching gears with "Classic Cars." "Lua" and the Neva Dinova cover of "Spring Cleaning" (from the split EP One Jug of Wine) edged out "Hit the Switch" and "Old Soul Song" for best back-to-back songs. He showcased his piano skills on the Dinova cover and "Brakeman," which took two takes to get the sound right, allowing more Oberst talk time. He introduced "Hit the Switch" by saying: "This is sort of a selfish song—well, I guess they all are. My old tour manager has a joke that goes, ‘You want to know how Bright Eyes warms up for a show? Me Me Me Me Me Me.’ I fired him."

The most serious Oberst moment came before "Old Soul Song," the account of a protest in New York. "Do you still remember we are at war…if true democracy wasn’t so fucking complacent…too many reality TV shows, too many nights to get wasted, I’m the same way," he confessed, offering the advice, "You have to do it on a micro level. My brother, who works in Washington, D.C., got the shit kicked out of him recently. The next day he joined Big Brother/Big Sister."

The five-minute encore got a little scary with the unpredictable Oberst, but the anxious fans were treated to "Bowl of Oranges," which he dedicated to his niece. The Tom Petty cover "Walls" added a nice twist and allowed for extended jamming between Oberst and Mike Mogis’ replacement, David Rawlings. Bright Eyes finished the magnificent 90-minute set with an unreleased new song floating around the Internet.

I went into the show willing to settle for seeing Oberst, watching him give a semi-passionate performance under a mediocre, Cassadaga-filled set list. Bright Eyes instead kept the energy up throughout a 16-song set list of good songs, which made for a great show. | Joseph O’Fallon

Set List

An Attempt to Tip the Scales
Another Travelin’ Song
Four Winds
Poison Oak
Method Acting
Arc of Time
You Will You Will You Will
Classic Cars
Lua
Spring Cleaning (Neva Dinova)
Brakeman Turns My Way
Hit the Switch
Old Soul Song

Encore:

Bowl of Oranges
Walls (Tom Petty)
New Song

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