September 24th, 2008 at 1:01 pm
By Tuesday evening, Bikes, Blues & BBQ was already bearing down on the quiet burg of Fayetteville. Many vendors were already set up in a sea of white tents, and the extra exhaust rattles were already undeniable.
College students, or those freshly removed from school, made up the bulk of the crowd that filled George’s Majestic Lounge to capacity.
In a set that would last about 15 minutes less than two hours, headliner Conor Oberst and his new cast of backing musicians, The Mystic Valley Band, took on a broad range of sounds that had them moving from Paul Simon covers to coffee-shop folk to country rock.
Click the “more” link below to continue reading about the Conor Oberst and Jenny Lewis concert on Sept. 23.
Oberst took the fans on a journey, playing songs that sounded like they were recorded by his previous incarnation, Bright Eyes, but weren’t (“Milk Thistle”) to several stomping rockers, songs that came out on his self-titled August release (“I Don’t Want To Die [In A Hospital],” “Souled Out”).
It’s been quite a journey for Oberst, too. His early work, full of forceful, warbling poeticism, differs in many ways from some of his more recent tunes, which — especially live — reminded me of “Gold”-era Ryan Adams, with the depth of lyrics and countryish vibe. Of course, the vintage Western shirt and cowboy boots Oberst wore Tuesday did nothing to dissuade me from that point of view.
Oberst was chatty during his performance, telling the crowd stories about his mother, the song the band had written earlier in the day (“10 Women”) and the guitar strap he had bought from Flying Possum Leather, across the street from the performance venue. Late in the set he jokingly referred to George’s Majestic Lounge, the smallest venue on his current tour, as “George’s Mystic Pizza Band Room.”
He did elicit a few laughs from the audience at times, but not much else. It isn’t easy to dance to an Oberst songs — you wouldn’t dance for a singer/songwriter at a coffee shop, would you? — and it showed for most of the night. The crowd, depending on the tempo of the song and how well the lyrics were known, was somewhere between bored and spellbound, certainly not dancing but reverently quiet throughout.
Of course, it didn’t matter what Oberst said or did. I haven’t seen a sell out in Fayetteville in some months, excluding a show that was intended for a larger venue and moved to a smaller one because of low ticket sales.
But Fayetteville was waiting for this show.
Perhaps too many were waiting for it, although not all can be blamed on the line. Standing on Dickson Street near the railroad tracks at 9:10 p.m., I heard what sounded like music coming from the bar. I had written down 9:30 p.m. as the start time, as had many other people, judging by the size of the line of people waiting to get into the venue and grumbles in the queue as the music started.
But the marquee read 9 p.m., and who would have guessed a concert would start on time, the first time something like that has happened in the two years I’ve been here?
Concerts never start on time. Except this one did, and many people, like me, missed half of Jenny Lewis’ opening set.
The SoCal songstress and vocalist for Rilo Kiley had a new solo record, “Acid Tongue,” drop the day of the concert. Live, she touched on it, playing the title track and several other tunes.
I didn’t take many notes about her set. I was upset I’d missed her, I guess. But I did write that “curious and furious,” lyrics pulled out of context from one of her songs, were an apt description for what she was doing. With a full backing band, Lewis and company explored the marginal territory between country and rock music aptly, and did so with passion, as Lewis, decked out in a tight black dress with pearl buttons, spun around onstage, often standing on the stage equipment for added effect.
Perhaps it was how mesmerizing she was that made me so upset — how could I have missed something so good?
It certainly left me wanting more, a feeling I think many people at the venue may have shared with me. But there was another longing, too, I think. That crowd was begging for this indie rock show. Not since Spoon visited in September of last year has an indie group with status equal to Conor Oberst performed in Northwest Arkansas.
Last night’s show had to be considered a success, considering the turnout on a Tuesday night and the way the crowd bought into to every song Oberst and company played.
When will we get another show like it?
Conor Oberst set list, as pulled from stage: 1) Central City; 2) Sausalito; 3) Get Well Cards; 4) MOAB; 5) Eagle on a Pole; 6) 10 Women; 7) I Got A Reason #1; 8) Gentleman’s Pact; 9) Danny Callahan; 10) Synasthete Song; 11) I Got A Reason #2; 12) NYC – Gone, Gone; 13) Souled Out; 14) Milk Thistle
Encore: 1) Lenders in the Temple; 2) Corina, Corina (cover); 3) Sundown; 4) Kodachrome (Paul Simon cover); 5) I Don’t Want To Die (In A Hospital)