Bright Eyes – Paradiso – 21.02.2011

Following last week’s top notch Iron and Wine gig in the same venue, this was another case of an artist sometimes noted for his more gentle, acoustic-based songs whipping up a full-band musical storm. I’ve seen Conor Oberst live once before, but it was an altogether more countrified experience when he was touring his eponymous album. Last night was a different story, with an overall much more rocky sound, albeit with still with plenty of pedal steel guitar to keep that all-American country sound somewhere in the mix.

I’m looking forward to getting to know the new album, The People’s Key, from which many of last night’s songs were drawn. Oberst always provides a good chorus and there are lots of hooks in the new songs. He gave a lively performance, giving 100% in every song and constantly on the move around the stage. He was joined by six other musicians, including two full drum kits – when they played in unison it sounded really great.

Highlights for me included performances of Four Winds, Old Soul Song, Poison Oak and Lover I Don’t Have To Love (which, incidentally, I’d love to hear Eminem covering). They kept the attention of a full house almost constantly, with just one or two flat moments here and there. A really enjoyable gig from a truly great songwriter accompanied by a very good band.

Support came from Lia Ices, a very tall keyboard-playing songstress with bass, drums and guitar to accompany her. Their audio set-up was poor and it was difficult to hear her vocals properly. (That could also have been related to her voice, but I’d give her the benefit of the doubt as her stuff on YouTube sounds pretty good.) Her drummer was entertaining to watch – rather flamboyant drumming technique. But on the whole the songs kind of passed me by. Probably not fair to judge her on the basis of last night’s performance.