Choose anyone in the American indie music multiverse and you can easily play a game of Six Degrees of Conor Oberst. Phoebe Bridgers, M Ward, Waxahatchee, Japanese Breakfast, Soccer Mommy and Lucy Dacus are just a few of many direct connections to the Bright Eyes frontman.
Christian Lee Hutson, the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and opening act this leg of the tour is no exception. He played guitar and various other instruments for Better Oblivion Community Center, Oberst’s project with Phoebe Bridgers. Hutson’s latest album Quitters was in fact, produced by Bridgers and Oberst. Some great friends to have. His songs are curious character studies with a biting edge, reminiscent of fellow L.A. singer/songwriter, Aimee Mann.
Bright Eyes released their tenth studio album Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was in the challenging time of August 2020. Aside from a few summer dates last year, this is their first real tour in a while and they’re bringing a big, full sound. In addition to the core trio of Conor Oberst, keyboardist/trumpet player Nate Walcott and multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, the 14-piece band features Jon Theodore from Queens of the Stone Age & The Mars Volta on drums plus an 8-piece chamber orchestra. This tour is an opportunity to give the latest album a live boost and properly revisit over two decades of songs. Their first nine albums are being reissued this year with special companion EPs featuring re-recorded songs with guest artists and curated covers.
With a hefty catalog to choose from, their set at the Capitol Theater was a well-paced mix of newer songs such as “Mariana Trench” and “Stairwell Song” layered between Bright Eyes favorites such as “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”, “Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh” and “Falling Out of Love At This Volume.”
The band switched between stripped down piano and strings to full-out rock anthem mode – guitar feedback and all. As Oberst propelled himself across the stage, you couldn’t help but envision a teenager who once jumped around to Replacements records and has now become one of the most accomplished singer/songwriters of his generation. He is still enjoying it – and so is the band, with an adoring audience singing along.
“One for You, One for Me” closed out the set. An upbeat call for mercy in the strangest, most perplexing way. Which is the perfect ending for a Bright Eyes show.
All Photos: Deb Johnsen