Bright Eyes @ Radio City Music Hall (3/9/11)

It’s been almost four years since the release of Bright Eyes’ last record. After Conor Oberst, the chameleon of voices and sounds, recorded and toured his solo and super-band projects, he returned to the name that once coined him as the “modern day Bob Dylan.” With the release of possibly Bright Eyes’ last album, The People’s Key brought to fans what they’ve been craving. More of Conor’s fragile voice over his soft, acoustic picking and more poetic lyrics about life, love, and politics.

Bright Eyes performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Tuesday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 9. I was there on Wednesday and enjoyed a show that was a reminder of two things: 1. How Conor Oberst and his Bright Eyes collection are brilliant and even more honest and powerful live. 2. That Radio City Music Hall can suck the life out of an audience.

I saw another of my favorite bands, The Gaslight Anthem, play at the legendary Radio City Music Hall a few months back. It was great to see a band like The Gaslight Anthem receiving the respect they deserve, but they’re not a band that should be playing Radio City. They’re a band that feeds off the energy of the audience from their power-rock songs. Bright Eyes is similar.

I remember seeing Bright Eyes in Town Hall, NYC when I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning was released. That’s an album full of songs you can enjoy in Radio City Music Hall. Even the opening song off of The People’s Key, “Firewall” was an excellent example of how to play to your venue. But when Bright Eyes followed that up with the fast-paced, rocking “Jejune Stars,” “Take It Easy,” and “Hot Knives,” there was no room to push and shove your way to the front and sing out loud (though I sang until my voice was hoarse and I’m sure everyone around me got annoyed… their fault they don’t know the songs). You’re barricaded and caged in the two-square feet of your seating area. It was frustrating.

Because of this, there’s no surprise that the songs Bright Eyes performed off of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning were the stand-out songs of the night. The back-to-back of “Old Soul Song” and “Poison Oak” was definitely the highlight of the set, along with an intimate performance of “An Attempt to Tip the Scales” and an eerie and powerful “No One Would Riot for Less.” But I just wished more of those type of songs were played.

I hate to compare, but it seems like the Tuesday crowd got the better set, as Bright Eyes performed crowd favorites like “Four Winds,” “Something Vague,” and “Lua,” which they omitted Wednesday night. Overall, Bright Eyes will always be one of the most important voices in the indie-music scene. The two-hour performance at Radio City Music Hall was great, yet didn’t exceed my expectations. It’s hard to top expectations at this point for Bright Eyes after all of the incredible releases they have. Nonetheless, Conor’s creativity with words and rhythms will never die. Let’s hope he isn’t done making music at the young age of 31.

Setlist:

Firewall
Jejune Stars
Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
Hot Knives
An Attempt to Tip the Scales
Padraic My Prince
We Are Nowhere and It’s Now
Shell Games
Approximate Sunlight
Arc of Time
Triple Spiral
Cleanse Song
Trees Get Wheeled Away
No One Would Riot For Less
Beginner’s Mind
Bowl of Oranges
Old Soul Song
Poison Oak
The Calendar Hung Itself
Ladder Song

Encore:

Lover I Don’t Have to Love
Road To Joy
One for You, One for Me

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3 Responses to Bright Eyes @ Radio City Music Hall (3/9/11)

  1. Grover says:

    Thanks for the nice review, and thanks too for posting the setlist; it WAS a great show. But why exactly is it the fault of the people around you that they have to listen to your shout-singing? It’s not that they don’t know the words–they probably DO know the words, and they want to hear them sung by the artist they’ve come to hear. Sorry, not trying to be a jerky troll, but if you’re sure you’re annoying everyone around you, and you do it anyway, that’s kind of dickish.

    • Rob says:

      I guess you’re right, it wasn’t their fault that they weren’t having as good of a time (or atleast expressing it) as I was. But hey, if sitting down during “Shell Games” or texting on your phone during “Arc of Time” is a form of enjoying the show, then I must have misinterpreted them lol. Anyway, it was a very good show, but not one of Bright Eyes’ best.

  2. joansracing@hotmail.com says:

    Back in December, when there were only two Bright Eyes shows scheduled – a single one at Radio City Hall and a single one at Albert Hall in London, England, we bought tickets to the RCMH Hall show – paid a thousand dollars to a scalper for four very good seats – only to see tickets sold for less than 1/3 face value or given away given away after the second show was added – it didn’t matter to us, we are Hard-Core Conor fans from Detroit – and happily
    came to NYC to see Bright Eyes, and will drive back to Michigan and see him at Royal Oak Music Theater next Monday. Anyway, we’ve seen him a number of times in Michigan, and the shows have been Wonderfully Spirited, with Conor and the fans taking his trademark lyric, “Fu** it up Boys, make some noise” to heart.

    I was really disappointed in the NYC crowd – I thought they looked and acted like people who were heavily medicated for ADHD – we were “WTF – do they know they are at a concert?” Some people stood for some of the songs, a few heads moved in time to the music, that was it. When “Lover I Don’t Have To Love” started, I did a spontaneous, delighted shout-out (“YESSSS!”) and raised my fist in the air, and a band-member smiled and nodded at me in what seemed to be appreciation, and smiled at me more than once as I actually MOVED MY BODY to the music. I spoke briefly with the Beautiful Young Woman in the front row of the pit whom Conor had sing with him, then kissed -she is also a fan from Michigan who “sang along” and moved to the music….Generally speaking, The Radio City Hall fans were so dissociatively quiet, and plain-looking, and spiritless, and style-less – not what I expected from NYC….even though Conor is “shy” onstage, he DOES respond to the fans, so I expect the Michigan show to be notably better.

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