Bright Eyes - Thursday November 10, The Hi-Fi
Considering Conor Oberst has acquired one of the most devoted fan bases in alternative music (some of whom were lined up outside the venue five hours before Bright Eyes were due on stage), it was unsurprising that Melbourne four-piece The Fuzzbirds were granted the pleasure of performing to a considerably large crowd of new listeners. The youthful group's quick set of '70s-inspired blues-y garage rock was an energising start to the evening and proved the most apt manner in which to open for an internationally revered band that boasts more musical experience than the Fuzzbirds' median age.
Emma Russack and her band elicited a moody, mesmerising air through their evocative jazz-inspired lamentations. It was, however, the kind of music that deserves an attentiveness that an assemblage of extremely feverish Bright Eyes fans can't quite provide.
Having released eight studio albums as Bright Eyes (alongside solo records, Monsters Of Folk and previous bands), Nebraskan singer-songwriter Conor Oberst is notably prolific, but more importantly, Oberst is a profound and compelling songwriter. His astute musings and poetic articulations of the political, personal, social and cultural often reach revelatory heights. Oberst could sell out shows on his lonesome due to his indelible presence and multi-instrumental talents, but his band - comprising incredible guitarist/producer Mike Mogis, Nate Walcott (trumpet, organ), two drummers, a bassist and additional keyboardist - are truly remarkable.
From the riotously invigorating set opener, Four Winds, to a four-song encore ending in One For You, One For Me, Bright Eyes extracted a level of searing passion, intensity and catharsis that's rarely upheld throughout a two-and-a-quarter-hour set. It was apparent that Bright Eyes' fifth album - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005) - resides eternally within the hearts of his fans. Old Soul Song (For The New World Order), Poison Oak and Landlocked Blues (Oberst's piercing proclamation of "greed is a bottomless pit, and our freedom's a joke," shook us mercilessly and potently) overwhelmed emotional fans and left them jolting and teary-eyed.
It was as thrilling to hear the decade-old songs as it was to witness some of the finest tracks off The People's Key live. Whether it was the uplifting percussion-driven Arc Of Time (Time Code), the devastating melancholy of Something Vague or the exquisite Spring Cleaning (as featured on his collaborative split EP with Neva Dinova), Oberst and his band exhibited an awe-inspiring vitality and a depth of musicianship that's extremely humbling. Oberst's introspective, morbid and emotive brilliance translates into something transcendent and life-affirming in its live performance. If only gigs of such a gripping, poignant and frighteningly pertinent quality weren't so rare.
LOVED: Something Vague , Landlocked Blues, Poison Oak, Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)... devastatingly glorious moments.
HATED: Introducing band members during the encore impeded the momentum ever so slightly.
DRANK: Bottled beer.