I took this picture (as in I stole it from SF Weekly)

Here’s a weird phenomenon about seeing Bright Eyes live: There are bro dudes—like the kind of real beefy-ass bro dudes you’d see in a movie about fraternities –crying. But they’re not just crying. They’re angry crying. Rage weeping. Whatever. Take, for instance, when Conor Oberst started to strum the first bar of this song, “Poison Oak”:

Yes, it’s a pretty song, but when the first few notes floated from the speakers, the bro dude right behind me turned to nobody in particular and yelled, “I’m about to tear up. I don’t give a fuck!” I half-expected him to take a wild swing at the beautiful notes floating above his head like monarch butterflies that were turning him into such a raging pussy. Charming, right? Perhaps, but not at all unique.

Right after this song:

I looked up and there’s a bro dude—the kind of bro dude who’s fat, but still wears tight shirts because in the right lighting his man boobs kind of still look like pectoral muscles—charging right at me with his fists clenched, “I fucking got emotional!” he proclaimed.

I had no idea about this phenomenon and I was speechless.

Anyway, the show was good. Bright Eyes did a ton of songs from their new album, The People’s Key, which is a heaping pile of shit. I heard in an interview that Oberst wanted to shed the stripped down folk thing he became famous for. And the result is this new wave, poppy form of blandness with a few disco breakdowns in the middle. It’s not pretty.
This is one of the more tolerable songs from that album:

Sure, there were parts that were cringeworthy, like when Oberst lifted up his shirt to show the screaming bitches his nipple, or when he stopped the music to rant incoherently about politics, “Like, Obama, is like, uh, not, like, uh, like, living up to, like, his promises, like, Guantanamo, like you guys are from Silicon Valley, right? Like, use your money to fuck over the tea party,” or some shit like that. It’s a good message, but I think the best thing you can do for the progressive cause is to shut the fuck up and strum your tunes.

It seems like most of the show was spent waiting around for the band to play songs from I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. And when they did finally get around to those songs, Oberst sang the living shit out of them. There’s something about that wavering falsetto that lowers to a growling whisper that can reach into your chest, pull out your heart, hold it up to the moon and make you say, “HOLY FUCK, I’M FUCKING CRYING!”

Josh Fernandez © 2021
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