It's entertaining when a band decides to go a "new" direction.
Most of the time the inevitable will happen; you'll lose the old fans,
but gain some completely new ones. This can be seen throughout history
in many examples, but one of the most recent was the band Bright
In February, Conor Oberst and his current entourage released
the album The People's Key, an album that took the musician
and his band in a new direction. Having previously been quoted regarding
the new sound, "we're over Americana, rootsy, whatever that sound
is. We very much wanted it to be rocking", it shouldn't have
been any surprise that the recent KC stop on their tour was just that
Opening with one of the hits from the new album, "Firewall",
literally set the stage for the almost theatrical performance Oberst
would put on. The song starts off with a professor or teacher of some
sort, telling a completely random and kind of creepy story. His voice
is soft and inviting, thus making it difficult to not listen to the
theories of the universe. But it's the intro of a solo guitar's chord
progression that really snags the last bit of your attention. Covered
in deep blue lights, the addition of some industrial percussion work
only adds to the dramatic transitions. The whole song comes off as
though it was torn from the setlist of Brand New; it's dark
and thick, with a hint of sex appeal.
Much of the set was filled with the new album. Songs like "Jejune
Starts" and "Shell Games" gave the band a chance to
up the tempo a touch. The former acted as a great excuse to dance
it out to a 80's-style pop number, with its emphasis sitting on not
only the jazzing cymbals, but the finger work plucking out of Conor's
guitar. We got a few yellows and reds for the lighting on that song.
Of course, after everyone had just gotten used to a few dance pieces,
the set revealed "Approximate Sunlight" and we were quickly
taken back to a sultry stage with only a few members chiming in. The
beat was so somber, that when paired with the warm blues guitar, a
gentle sway came across the crowd. A soft ween could be heard from
an accompanying guitarist and when the blue lights came back, the
tone was solidified.
As a new fan, there was one of the old songs that stuck itself in
my mind. "The Calendar Hung Itself
" took the latter
part of the set and kicked it up a few notches. The xylophone gave
the song its sashay, while the synthesizer helped the salsa beat come
out that much faster. It was one of those songs that after seeing
it performed live you'd have just one response: "that was fun!"
The entire show ended poetically with the last song on the new album
called "One For You, One For Me". The light airy strums
took the sound to a George Michael, mid-90s Adult Alternative
level. But it played nicely with the empowering and nearly cheerful
lyrics. Props are due with this selection, as Conor could've easily
picked another "hit" of his to end the night. Instead he
chose a song to leave his audience with an ever-so-slight grin on
The reaction from an old Bright Eyes fan would probably be completely
different, but the reaction from this new one was that it was an enjoyable
show, for sure.
April 2, 2011
Uptown Theater, Kansas City, MO
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