Bright Eyes/Dawes The Pageant June 6, 2011
It's not every day (or every year, or every decade, even) that Bright Eyes stops in St. Louis. The last tour date (in November of 2005) was moved to Columbia, MO after Conor Oberst realized that the scheduled venue, the Pageant, had a connection to Clear Channel. Nearly six years later and a decade since its last show here, Bright Eyes made amends with the Pageant and returned to the Lou. Judging by the sold out show and massive lines waiting to enter the venue, the band's absence has been sorely felt.
Conor Oberst's reputation precedes him. Critics have called him the next Bob Dylan. His self-deprecating, earnest lyrics narrating heartbreak, insignificance, suicide and drowned babies have lead many to believe he's a dark and temperamental figure.
While some (admittedly, this reviewer included) might have expected a moody, indulgent performer in Oberst, he proved us wrong, reaching out to touch the hands of fans in the front rows, dancing and acting out lyrics as he sang them, playing a fair mix of new songs and old crowd-pleasers (the Pageant erupted at the start of "Four Winds," "The Calendar Hung Itself" and "Lover I Don't Have to Love") -- in short, he performed like a bona fide frontman, not a sulky singer-songwriter.
Yes, there are still glimpses of that gloomy teenage boy in a basement recording with a four track machine, but he's now balanced all of that pain and passion with success: success he's earned and success he clearly appreciates.
The band found balance as well, performing tightly on everything from "Haile Selassie" to "Falling Out Of Love At This Volume," a song originally played by Oberst alone.
The highlight of the evening came when, just after midnight, Oberst announced, "This song is about casual sex" before playing the first few notes of "Lover I Don't Have to Love." Conor, don't you know it's dangerous to howl "I want a lover I don't have to love / I want a girl who's too sad to give a fuck" and "I want a boy who's so drunk he doesn't talk"? I'm sure there are a couple thousand people in this mug who'd gladly take you up on the offer. I truly hope your tour bus is equipped with Mace. More importantly, I hope you loved St. Louis as much as it loved you, and please don't wait another decade to come back.
Dawes took the stage at 9 o'clock sharp and jumped head first into its set, playing with an impressive confidence and ferocity, especially considering this show was its first on the tour. Dawes' new record, Nothing is Wrong, came out today, and to celebrate, the band played an in-store at Vintage Vinyl after Bright Eyes ended the show. That's right, a 12:30 a.m. in-store, just hours after finishing a full set.
Personal Bias: I fell in love with Bright Eyes in all its intensity as an adolescent, and I always expect to find out I've outgrown it. The band blew me away in Columbia in '05, and over the six years that passed, I'd built up an expectation for disappointment again. Last night's show proved that Oberst and Co. have not only held up over time, but that the songs have, as well; Bright Eyes is still playing "Falling Out Of Love At This Volume," a song Oberst wrote when he was fifteen.
Overheard: It was hard to hear much over the shrill shrieking of the fella next to me, especially when "Four Winds" began. He squealed every word as loud as humanly possible and very well may have been sobbing between breaths. Point being: In case you haven't realized, people were fucking into it.
By the Way: The show was originally scheduled for 8 but was pushed back to 9 p.m. due to an undisclosed family emergency. It's speculated that the delay was related to Oberst's grandmother's passing away last week.
Oberst's positivity was infectious and even preachy at times. He took several breaks to talk about how wonderful the people in his band are, how great life is, how we should love each other and share. He also waxed political and followed a rant with a half-hearted apology. "Sorry about that. Sorry if you guys don't like politics at your concerts, but, I don't really care." Listen to a cell-phone-recorded snippet of his argument below:
Dawes' Setlist: 1. If I Wanted Someone 2. The Western Skyline 3. Coming Back to Man 4. How Far We've Come 5. A Little Bit Of Everything 6. Time Spent in Los Angeles 7. When My Time Comes 8. Million Dollar Bill 9. Fire Away
Bright Eyes' Setlist: 1. Firewall 2. Haile Selassie 3. Take it Easy (Love Nothing) 4. Jejune Stars 5. Four Winds 6. Bowl of Oranges 7. Trees Get Wheeled Away 8. Something Vague 9. We Are Nowhere, And It's Now 10. Shell Game 11. Approximate Sunlight 12. Arc of Time 13. Falling Out of Love at this Volume 14. Cartoon Blues 15. No One Would Riot For Less 16. ? 17. Poison Oak 18. Old Soul Song (For the New World Order) 19. The Calendar Hung Itself 20. Ladder Song Encore: 21. Gold Mine Gutted 22. Lover I Don't Have To Love 23. Road To Joy 24. One For You, One For Me