Review: Bright Eyes at the Fillmore, 6/5/11


"It was a bit bittersweet to think that this might be the last time Bright Eyes plays Denver."

Bright Eyes' set at the Fillmore last night started just as the band's latest effort, The People's Key, does -- with a recorded spoken-word intro to the song "Firewall," by a dude named Denny Brewer, who fronts the El Paso-based psychedelic band Refried Ice Cream. While the stage was darkened, Brewer went on about beings that walked like man but had reptilian features that could phase shift between dimensions, and how space is expanding into a super universe and so forth.

As Brewer's words faded, the band appeared and went into "Firewall" and sort of eased into its set before the thundering tom toms from two drummers kicked in three songs later on "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)," which Conor Oberst performed with notable intensity. That energy surged through "Jejune Stars" and into "Four Winds," a darker number that boasts lines about bodies decomposing in containers, which was immediately greeted by raucous applause as soon as Oberst strummed the opening chords.

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While the show had its fair share of rockers, Oberst and company slowed it down on quite a few cuts, like "Approximate Sunlight," which featured some fine atmospheric textures by Mike Mogis. During the song, Oberst walked to the edge of the stage, reached out and touched the hands of some fans -- a lot of them young girls, who grinned with excitement.

After a poignant take on "Something Vague," which featured Laura Burhenn of Mynabirds on accordion, the group went into "Arc of Time," which ended up being one of the evening's many highlights. A few songs later, Oberst prefaced "Beginner's Mind" by saying the song was about "staying young at heart at all costs," as he put it, "and not letting all those cynical, sarcastic little bitchy bastards turn you into one of them, which is their goal. That's all they got to do, the only way they can prove their worth, because they're scared little babies."

Oberst was equally outspoken during other parts of the set. Before going into "Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)," which he pointed out is an anti-war song, he chided: "People don't like those these days, and that's a goddamned fact, because they don't like to look at themselves and realize that they're the problem. But I'll tell you one thing: The only reason that we're constantly at war as a country is to make rich people richer, because they determine the policies in our government. And that's the single reason we're at war. Anything else they tell you is not true. It's to make rich people richer. There are much better ways to achieve peace on this earth than at the barrel of the fucking government. And that's the truth. And for all those people that don't like to hear it, fuck you."

After "The Calendar Hung Itself," which Oberst said was a song about getting your heart broken for the first time, the band closed out the set with "Ladder Song." "This is kind of a weird way to end it, but you all won't mind," he said before starting the song by himself on keyboard. For the encore, Oberst strummed his acoustic on the heartbreaking "Landlocked Blues" while the crowd sang along to lines like "But it all boils down to one quotable phrase/If you love something, give it away."

Regarding "Lover I Don't Have to Love," Oberst said it was about the dark side of life, which, he noted, is okay to visit as long as you don't move there permanently. "Road to Joy," which followed, was another anti-war song, with Oberst singing along to the melody of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Before queueing that one up, Oberst said, "A lot of people want you to believe that it's good versus evil out there, which is not true. It's just evil versus evil and all the rest of us in between. That's the truth. This is for all the peacemakers in the world." As the band closed out its two-hour, 24-song set with "One for You, One for Me," it was a bit bittersweet to think that this might be the last time Bright Eyes plays Denver. Oberst has said he plans to retire the moniker.


Personal Bias:While Oberst and company put on a hell of set, it was sometimes hard to see the guy due to the dim stage lighting.
By the Way: Jenny and Johnny, which featured Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley and Johnathan Rice, seemed like they were having a good time when they opened the show with a bouncy set of tunes from their album I'm Having Fun Now.
Random Detail: Oberst had to move the show from Friday to Sunday due to a family emergency.


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