Photography by Claire Dunham
By Claire Dunham, Staff Writer
Artist: Bright Eyes
When: Thursday, April 7th
In 1995, Nebraska-based musician Conor Oberst founded Bright Eyes. It was a new solo project for the 15-year-old prodigy who had already released three solo albums and two additional albums with his band Commander Venus. Soon, Oberst recruited Nate Walcott and Mike Mogis, and Bright Eyes became an indie-rock trio.
After a nine-year hiatus, the group released their acclaimed 2020 studio album, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was. Now, Bright Eyes are on tour again, and fans are welcoming them back with open arms. On Thursday night at Roadrunner, the band played songs — new and old — with uninhibited energy, leaving Bostonians begging for more.
OPENING ACT CHRISTIAN LEE HUTSON IS THE ULTIMATE BRIGHT EYES FAN
LA-based indie artist Christian Lee Hutson is a testament to the profound influence of Bright Eyes. As a teenager, the musician said his life was consumed by Bright Eyes music and his pink iPod mini. Now, he is opening for the band.
Hutson’s latest album, Quitters, was actually co-produced by Oberst along with Phoebe Bridgers. And it wasn’t the first time Hutson collaborated with the artists. In 2019, he co-wrote and played on Better Oblivion Community Center, a joint album by Oberst and Bridgers. Together, the three musicians are a songwriting dream team, as they share an affinity for all things melancholy and evocative.
The Boston crowd enthusiastically nodded along to Hutson’s sweet-sounding melodies. Fans were particularly delighted to hear “Northsiders,” a track from the singer’s 2020 album Beginners. The song has a charming vintage sound and resembles iconic ’90s acoustic ballads by artists like Elliot Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel.
CONOR OBERST PERFORMS WITH INIMITABLE PASSION
The crowd erupted into wild cheers when Bright Eyes finally took to the stage. Clad in black jeans and a dazzling star sweater, Oberst radiated with energy as he launched into a rendition of the band’s upbeat song “Dance and Sing.” The vibrant musician, who has nearly 30 years of performance experience, danced around the stage with a display of god-like confidence.
This enthralling stage presence lasted the entire performance, and Oberst even played the band’s slow sentimental ballads with a captivating intensity. I couldn’t help but notice the deeply scratched body of Oberst’s acoustic guitar, a physical manifestation of his fiery performance.
Throughout the show, Oberst also connected deeply with the audience. He performed multiple songs crouched at the stage’s edge so that he could be closer to fans. Oberst’s stage presence is uniquely dynamic: a perfect balance of rockstar confidence and heart-wrenching vulnerability.
BRIGHT EYES & COMPANY
During the show, an array of proficient instrumentalists joined permanent band members Oberst, Walcott and Mogis. The group of eight horn and string players, who also performed backing vocals, put a symphonic twist on many classic Bright Eyes songs. Overall, the sound was full, lively and deeply cinematic.
Flute player Domenica Fossati was a crowd favorite. She featured in the wholesome love song “First Day of My Life” from I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Fossati’s flute solo added a refreshing buoyancy to the quintessential Bright Eyes tune. Audience members watched captivated as her fingers fluttered swiftly across the instrument. Even Oberst seemed to be in awe of Fossati’s talent as he strummed his guitar at her side.
BRIGHT EYES LOOK BACK TO MOVE FORWARD
To many fans, Bright Eyes’ lyrics and melodies transcend time. A prolific writer, Oberst blurs the line between song lyrics and confessional poetry. The Nebraska musician pours his heart into every word and illustrates his pain with an undercurrent of hope.
During the concert, Oberst acknowledged the trials of the past few years, saying, “There have been a lot of downs, but we are trying to take it up.” This is the beauty of Bright Eyes: the band’s ability to discuss the pain of the past, without forgetting their hope for the future.
Ultimately, I was struck by the music’s transcendental sound. The melodies of old songs like “Poison Oak” and “Lover I Don’t Have to Love” mirrored the band’s recent ballads like “Comet Song.” The live performance was proof of the trio’s undying spirit.
As the night came to a close, misty-eyed fans held their loved ones a bit closer and cherished every lyric more deeply. The concert was a priceless experience. Audience members were overjoyed to finally see the band reunited. Likewise, Bright Eyes band members seemed just as pleased to be playing together again. The show experience is probably best summarized by a lyric from the band’s glorious closing song: “There is nothing as lucky, as easy, or free.”