Regular readers of Lazy-i can skip this week’s column, which I include below for posterity’s sake only. It’s a remix of last week’s Lazy-i review of the Oberst concert with the Spin.com Oberst review, with a slightly different lead and ending.
Column 217: Fly Like The Eagles
Oberst Kicks off U.S. Tour
A day before the sold-out Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley concert at The Slowdown last week, I got an e-mail from an editor at Spin.com, asking if I could review the show for their site. I guess the fact that Oberst was kicking off a national tour in Omaha — and playing new material from his upcoming album, Outer South — was newsworthy. So out of that came a review, which is still online and linked from the Spin.com homepage.
The “hook” to the write-up: That Oberst and his pals are this generation’s Eagles. Each member of his band took the helm for at least one song during the concert, while The Conor played the role of enthusiastic sideman. Guitarist Taylor Hollingsworth was Joe Walsh on a short Beatle-esque pop song, bassist Macey Taylor was Timothy B. Schmit singing a twangy number that could have been off Oberst’s last album, while drummer Jason Boesel did the Don Henley thing behind the kit while Oberst sang along, off microphone.
It was an amusing comparison that of course breaks down when you realize that 1) The Eagles never had a frontman like Oberst to anchor everything, and 2) Other than a similar amount of country-rock twang, the two bands’ music isn’t terribly similar. When they’re rocking, Oberst and Co. sound more like the Allman Bros. than The Eagles (In fact, I can hear Dickey Betts’ classic duo-guitar harmonies on “Jessica” in my head as I type this).
OK, now here’s what didn’t make it into the Spin.com review:
Capgun Coup was on stage when I arrived at around 10:30. Frontman Sam Martin wore what looked like a Kurt Cobain wig and an argyle cardigan sweater. Was it some sort of tribute to the fallen hero a few days after the 5-year anniversary of his death? I don’t know. However, I think Cobain would have approved of the tribute as well as Capgun’s crash-bam rock style. With the organ/keyboard off to the side, the set had more of a garage-rock feel, but with a proggy overhang that kept things riled up. As per usual, their performance seemed almost purposely sloppy. As Oberst would say later in the evening from stage, Capgun is a band that can’t be put in a box, and doesn’t even know what a box looks like. They’re doing their own thing, whether you like or not.
Clearly some of Conor’s little-girl fans didn’t. From my roost off to the left I could see a small bevy of bored, pissed-off looking girls leaning against the stage; two of the little puppy dogs had their backs to the band, arms crossed, waiting. They didn’t have to wait very long.
Oberst and Co. wasted no time after Capgun’s rather short set. There was Conor in his super-tight skinny brown jeans, button-up shirt, Banana Republic sports jacket and flat-toe boots roaring into a couple new songs that were darker than the usual stuff, singing about Jesus and charisma with lines like, “I got a sad, sinking feeling.”
While not overly chatty (He’s no Kasher when it comes to between-song patter), Oberst did get off a few good lines. Halfway through the set he commented on the Slowdown complex. “Me and Robb (Nansel) never thought we’d have our own mall. Now we have our own mall. It’s fantastic,” he said in a way that could be taken as sarcasm. He dedicated new song “Nikorette” to his dentist and even did a brief commercial, repeating his dentist office’s location and saying, “Over the years I smoked a lot of cigarettes, but they can give you something to make your teeth white,” and then broke out a big ol’ smile.
Overall, it was a solid two-hour concert that nicely wove the new stuff with stuff off the first album. The highlight (for me, anyway) always is the slower, quieter stuff, and Oberst has a couple nice ones on this new record, including a somber waltz called “Ten Women,” and a song that led off his encore that could be “Lua Pt. 2.”
I applaud the fact that everyone in the band got to contribute a song or two, but the only non-Oberst song that stood out was the one sung by Boesel. We’ll see how it all works out in the end. Oberst clearly just wants to have fun with this band. I can’t imagine how he could ever feel he was on the same level with everyone else unless he shared the writing and lead vocal chores with the rest of his chums.
I concluded the Spin review with this: For a guy who’s been performing on stage since he was 14, Oberst has never looked more content than when he’s playing with the Mystic Valley Band. Still, he’s the kind of guy who never stays in one place — or with one band — for very long. So tell us, Conor, are you in this one for the long run?
I realized after I wrote it that most of his young fans won’t “get” the reference to the Eagles’ 1979 album, and in fact, many won’t even know who The Eagles are. That’s OK, because something tells me The Eagles don’t know who Conor is, either.
It’s been pretty quiet the past few days for shows. That’ll change as we head into the weekend.
Happy Tax Day.
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