Touring behind Digital Ash In A Digital Urn, the second half of Conor Oberst ‘s recent double disc release, the king of heartache tried with all his might to outplay his opening band and uphold his recent large-scale reputation. However, he was no match for indie dance rock openers The Faint.
Amidst the green and purple lights, The Faint hit the stage and immediately threw the crowd into a frenzy via a few bars of violin. With bassist Joel Petersen flinging his arms to the beat and vocalist Todd Fink continuously slamming his head into the microphone, the audience was enthralled. During “Paranoiattack,” bodies swarmed on top of people. Every bit of their 60-minute performance was simply intoxicating, to the point where I found myself nervously pondering whether or not Bright Eyes had the ability to compete with such raw flare. And I wasn’t alone considering the band’s merch booth was packed tight with fans grabbing everything they could.
About an hour later, static filled The Docks and the numbers 0101 appeared on the large screens. As Bright Eyes launched into “Time Code” the lights shone on the shy artist and his large band was revealed. A crowd of musicians were huddled on stage with a cello, piano, two keyboards, two drums, two guitars and a bass. The Faint’s Joel Petersen even joined the performance for the entire set.
If any show can be classified as overwrought emo, this was it. Between screams of, “I love you Conor!” and, “You’re a fucking genius!” were visuals dripping in melodrama. During “Ship In A Bottle,” a crying owl was shown on the screens, drowning himself in tears and throughout “Light Pollution” Oberst closed his eyes and spread out his arms. The audience sang along to the band’s hit single off of Digital Ash, “Take It Easy (Love Nothing)” and were hushed as Conor sang a never before heard track which he explained was his “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Towards the end of the night, Oberst took requests from the audience and most fans screamed that they wanted to hear “Lover I Don’t Have To Love.” During “I Believe In Symmetry,” Conor stumbled and forgot his place, but repeated a line and quickly recovered.
Close to midnight and the crowd were exhausted, but they screeched for an encore and after almost five minutes of pleading, Oberst came out with a violin and cello backing him. Subsequently, the rest of the musicians went off on their own tangents creating a static mess, only to tie it up in beautiful symphony as they went into “Lover I Don’t Have To Love,” off of 2002’s Lifted. The audience went insane as they sang along to the Bight Eyes classic. The second encore and last song of the night, “Easy/Lucky/Free” was dedicated to a friend of Oberst’s, Simon King. The high emotions of the night didn’t compare to the passion displayed in this song, as Oberst lowered himself down on stage and sang from his knees.
Every song, minus the unrecorded tune and encore track were off of Digital Ash, disappointing older fans with the lack of pre-Lifted material. All in all, a good show, but in the end Bright Eyes couldn’t muster up enough energy or enthusiasm to claim best band of the night.