So, after very little prompting from a friend (who basically said if I had the time and the money I should check it out), I decided to go to Monday night's Bright Eyes concert here in Milwaukee after all. I mean, it was a weeknight, I had the cash, and I live in the Midwest, so what else was I gonna do?
Surprisingly, in light of his wimpy reputation, Conor Oberst and his band came ready to rock. They played a mostly electric, and always loud, set that definitely convinced at least this attendee that he's a true Rock God -- a boyish, frail-looking Rock God whom I could probably take in a fight, but a Rock God nonetheless.
Conor was so confident in his benevolent Powers of Rock that he mostly ignored the songs from this year's Cassadaga album in favor of some older, harder numbers. (Unfortunately, I can't give you a playlist, because I just got into Bright Eyes two albums ago.) In fact, he only played one song from his most recent release, a song that, much to my chagrin, wasn't "Four Winds," a song that's on my shortlist for Song of the Year. (Other contenders, among many, on this not-so-short list include Rufus Wainwright's "Going to a Town," Lady Sovereign's "Random," and Aly & AJ's "Potential Breakup Song." Sigh. If only I were joking.)
Our boy was "in fine voice" all evening, as boring and unoriginal newspaper writers like to say, and very, um, intense. He came to rock, and nothing else, certainly not to chitchat. He didn't address the audience until the encore, although his drummer made a couple of dorky and poorly timed announcements throughout the show. Note: A drummer talking is always a bad idea, folks.
For his grand finale, The Boy Wonder kicked over his amp, slammed his guitar on top of it, and rammed this new instrument to the foot of the stage, where he damn near poked out some poor chick's eye, before exiting the stage to the accompaniment of much squealing (from all the feedback) and, um, even more squealing (from all those Indie Kids in ill-fitting jeans). Note: Skin-tight jeans are a worse idea, people.
In contrast to a previous Milwaukee show from earlier in the tour (or so I've overheard), he kept his on-stage drinking to a minimum. While he did occasionally swig from a bottle of beer, he thankfully didn't fall on top of any of his bandmates or have to be carried off the stage afterwards by a security guard (in much the same way, one imagines, as Jesus was carried by his Mother from the cross and directly onto the canvas of a Renaissance painting, if the hushed, reverent recountings of Conor's earlier performance are to be believed).
Basically, he gave the old fans something fresh and all the fans, both old and new, something fierce.
In short, and somewhat unexpectedly, he rocked. At length, he rocked my Nicolas-Cage-John-Travolta-face-switching-movie.
So, no more troubadourdom (troubadordumb?) for him, no sirree. He left that to his snooze-inducing opening acts.