At about the halfway point of the 2000-ies, when garage rock was receding back into the watery depths, there happened a somewhat anomalous occurrence. A bunch of kids from Omaha, Nebraska’s Saddle Creek Records seemed next in line to become the next big thing. Like in any Next Big Thing, they were all young, good looking, and sad as hell. Conor Oberst, the groups prolific, manic depressive princeling, seemed destined to kneel down before Julian Cassablancas and have the crown of rock placed right on his lethargic, doughy-eyed head. Yet this was never fully realized. The Omaha folk explosion exited the mainstream as suddenly as it entered it. Obersts band, Bright Eyes, never created the classic album that they seemed on the brink of creating in 2004. Oberst spent the rest of the decade backpedaling from the heart-on-sleeve accidental pin-up image that he had made for himself.
conor oberst playing “lua,” off of the 2005 album “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.”
Although I haven’t been listening to Bright Eyes as much recently, they graced Hawaii Theatre last week. I have to say, I was disappointed by the show, as were a lot of my friends who were in attendance. I couldn’t really place why at first, but I think, oddly, that it’s because Conor Oberst is confident on stage. I came to love Oberst’s records because of the shaky frailty and insecurity that comes through so easily in his vocal delivery. Yet on stage he paraded about, overtly aware of his own greatness. At a point in one song he took off his shirt. This is kind of the musical equivalent of learning that Santa isn’t real.