Conor Oberst At Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – Review
Conor Oberst took to the broad stage of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on Sunday, touring tracks from his most recent release, Ruminations, let loose late last year. Bathed in large swathes of space onstage, besides an upright piano, he brought only his roommate on bass to accompany him. The minimal set up mirrors the sparse arrangements offered by his latest record but nonetheless, the theatre’s seats are filled with hushed attendees reverently awaiting the Bright Eyes singer on the last date of his European tour.
Starting with ‘Tachycardia’, piano and bass hum, the opener from Ruminations beginning the evening’s offering, ends with harmonica belting wistfully at the finish. Settling in nicely, Oberst leaves little space between tracks, turning to the next tune, singing ‘I don’t want to eat or get out of bed or try to remember what the therapist said’. ‘Gossamer Thin’ presents a purposefully personal portrayal of vulnerability, grappling addiction, insecurity and ageing interacting all at once. The vocal harmonies on the chorus blend beautifully as he sings the uncomfortable refrain, ‘the mind and the brain aren’t quite the same but they both want out of this place’.
‘Barbary Coast (Later)’ lends acoustic guitar to the bass along with a distinct warble in the vocal, a wobble to the words, vowel sounds that only Conor Oberst can shape. Speaking about star gazing, Oberst muses a dedication to the Hubble telescope, ‘my old pal’, he quips. Tapping on the body of the guitar, the bass beats along to the rhythm of ‘Cape Canaveral’, making smart use of minimal arrangements. He prefaces ‘Ten Women’ wryly, muttering ‘this song is about over compensating with sexual activity for sadness’, delivering a regret tinged country tune, the melody played high on the neck of the bass.
The loudest song all evening begins with an expression of regret, ‘I just want to apologise for my country’ the singer states, referencing the current political landscape in his homeland, raising a rare raucous cheer from the subdued Sunday audience. ‘This is a song about things that are hard to believe’, he says before breaking into ‘A Little Uncanny’ in a rousing rendition full of fierce energy, shouting the first line, ‘we started drinking the Kool-aid, we were taking the bait’.
Described as ‘sort of the title track’, ‘Mama Northwick (A Sketch)’ has an easy soft sensibility to its subtle guitar strum while ‘Lenders in the Temple’ captures an energetic vocal and impassioned performance. Inviting the support act Phoebe Bridgers onto the stage for a Felice Brothers cover, they then move on to a fan favourite. Conor says, ’I kind of got burnt out playing this’, before beginning ‘Lua’, a sombre, delicate, much-loved Bright Eyes number. Swapping verses with Bridgers, their voices sound beautiful together in harmony. High bass notes sing a solo while the last chorus is sung acapella, vocals awash with reverb, glistening when the guitar drops out.
With time for one more, the Bright Eyes banger ‘At the Bottom of Everything’ is provided passionately and finishes with erratic strumming and harmonica humming, greatly received by the gathered faithful who rise and stand to applaud as the singer departs the theatre’s stage.