Conor Oberst and his Mystic Valley Band took to the stage at the Roxy on Nov. 5, playing to a packed house of hipsters-in-training, who awkwardly angled past each other to get inches closer to their indie god.
The man who took the stage that night, dressed in a long leather jacket and cowboy hat with matching leather boots, was not Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, but rather a distinct, new human being.
‘New Conor’ has many of the of the same trademarks as the man they call Bright Eyes: his shaky voice, awkward smile and random frenetic screams. A victim of stage fright, he stared directly at the microphone, which made him go cross-eyed for songs at a time.
But it was those songs that made Conor Oberst different from Bright Eyes. While the latter always had a bit of a country twang ‘-‘- specifically in his later records ‘-‘- The Mystic Valley band was an decidedly alt-country band, intent on playing their music. Soon an understanding swept over the crowd that those who came hoping for Bright Eyes songs would leave disappointed.
The songs themselves differ greatly from Oberst’s former efforts. Specifically the song, ‘NYC ‘-‘- Gone, Gone’ off of the album appropriately called Conor Oberst, an anthemic march with one main lyrical line repeated, operates in direct contrast to most of Oberst’s back catalogue, more than a hundred songs that could certainly be described as lyric driven if not poetry set to music.
The whole show seemed to be laying the idea of Bright Eyes to rest. Oberst danced, sang and smiled at his band mates, as opposed to playing the role of the depressed troubadour he once embodied. The name of his album suggests the same. Conor Oberst has taken his name back and is allowing himself and his music to progress and grow from his former persona.’ The two other guitarists in the band, Taylor Hollingsworth and Nik Freitas, sang their own songs as well, as Oberst had no trouble stepping back and giving the rest of his band the spotlight.
The band closed the show with a blues version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Corrina Corrina,’ which featured a stunning guitar solo from Hollingsworth. While Oberst may have disappointed fans yearning to hear some tunes from Fevers and Mirrors, or Lifted, he certainly showed that he has matured as a musician and is able to successfully ‘-‘- and beautifully ‘-‘- explore a new genre of music.