The last few times I saw Bright Eyes, frontman Conor Oberst was wasted. Not just the standard rock star I’ve-got-a-good-buzz-going vibe, but full-on, slurred speech, staggering smashed. Ironically enough however, the time I see Oberst at the bar before the show, sucking down Grey Goose and sodas, I would have been most willing to hand him my keys.
Oberst, who along with bandmate and producer Mike Mogis, was spotted at the Alibi Room a few hours before he went on, was notably subdued from his normally knackered self last night. The result was a much more cohesive performance which, though less emotional than in the past, was made rousing by an afro-sporting honky-tonk fiddle player and a bevy of new material.
In what was likely a tune-up for the much larger and recently announced tour to support the upcoming Cassadaga, the band stuck almost entirely to the new stuff, highlighted by “I Must Belong Somewhere,” “Soul Singer In a Session Band,” and “Tourist Trap,” songs that, with straightforward rhyme schemes and strong country influences, mark a clear stylistic departure from the polarizing star’s early work. When the older songs were trotted out they tended to be on the rare side and made to compliment the down home feel of the rest of the set list. These included “Make War,” “Spent on Rainy Days,” and “June on the West Coast,” which closed the encore with the best fiddle of the night.
Unfortunately for Seattleites, this was, as Oberst noted, the only stop on the tour that didn’t feature M. Ward on guitar, who decided to stay behind in his hometown of Portland the night before. Absent guest stars aside, Conor and company still managed a show that didn’t disappoint.