Hailed as the “next big thing” in Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly, Bright Eyes’ Connor Oberst performed last Sunday at Miami’s Manuel Airtime Theatre with a 15-piece orchestra. Is he worth the full-blown hype he’s been receiving? I can answer that with an astounding “yes.”
Due to the “orchestra feel” of the tour, the venue was hand-picked by the band. The plush, comfy seats were filled to nearly full-capacity with patrons wearing thick-rimmed glasses, in both the downstairs and balcony sections.
Noteworthy opener M. Ward has been alongside Bright Eyes for the entire tour. Ward plays an amazing guitar with slap techniques usually exemplified by only the most experienced bassists. His music would be classified by most as “melodic folk.” It was relaxing, and a nice compliment to the Bright Eyes tour. Oberst himself accompanied M. Ward for one song on vocals and guitar.
When the lights dimmed for Bright Eyes, several people crowded near the front but were quickly instructed to sit. This was an effort to keep the “orchestra atmosphere.” 12 musicians came out momentarily, and shuffled around as they played a variety of instruments including the baritone, cello, slide guitar (with e-bow), trumpet, violin, flute, harmonica, bass guitar, three percussionists, banjo, keyboard, oboe, and vibes. Then the music prodigy appeared -with two bottles of Rolling Rock, his guitar, and a quite obvious buzz.
He played a plethora of songs, both old and new. During one amusing moment, he forgot the words to a song and sought refuge from his band mates. He was quickly set straight and sent back to the mic. Between each song, at least one swig of Rolling Rock was poured down his throat.
But despite the intoxication, the emotion in his music was undiluted. Bright Eyes has some of the most amazing lyrics out there right now. He’s not just bitching about a girl (although there is the occasional song about relationships) – he deals with other issues that face our generation. Some of the songs were so powerful they ran chills down my spine.
As they played the last chord of their set and began to exit the stage, the crowd clearly desired more. The applause and cheering lasted a solid five minutes before Connor came back on stage with just a drummer and a bassist. The remaining audience crowded up to the front of the stage as he played two songs. The last two songs of the encore were performed with the entire band.
He ended powerfully with “Kathy with a K” off of Oh Holy Fools!, a split with Son, Ambulance, another act on the Saddle Creek records label. Connor then “stumbled” off the stage with his Rolling Rock in tow.
For more info: www.saddlecreek.com.
Kira Wisniewski can be reached at email@example.com.