General Thoughts, Live Music, Music Review

Conor Oberst Phase II

Conor Oberst has changed since 2004. He doesn’t look like an emo kid. He has the scruffy tortured soul look, like a James Blunt for Xanax users. He is still short. This tour he has decided to work in the violin/fiddle into every song, well he’s been doing that for years. His guitar player was wearing a pant suit. I’m not the fashion police.

Oh yeah, she was good at her instrument. Conor held the riffs down and allowed Ms. McCormick to get creative.

The crowd was small. Smaller than expected. Not sure why Conor Oberst doesn’t have a bigger following in Las Vegas. Despite it’s size it was a passionate crowd. A couple guys in front wanted to make clear they knew every lyric, including from the new album Ruminations which only started streaming a few days ago.

They were big fans.

Conor Oberst is a hard guy for me to put my finger on. I’m not sure he is that tortured soul he looks like on stage. It’s not an act. He’s a great song writer. He needs to stick to the raining window he’s looking through at the world when writing music. That is what is paying his bills. But maybe that’s gotten him stuck. Maybe the songs about drinking, the early unfortunate comparison to Bob Dylan and his song writing style has just gotten him stuck.

Conor Oberst’s demeanor says he could end it all any minute, by end it all I mean either his career or his life. I don’t think that happens, I’m just saying that’s his demeanor. Mr. Oberst sees the world in a certain way and these songs, whether they’re folky, emo rock,electronic pop are his abstract paintings of that experience. Every ironic line, every story, every hook is a brush stroke and it’s all painted in grays and dark blues.

Like many of his fans, that are so animated as they sing along to his lyrics, hoping for some recognition from their hero of verse, I’m also touched by his writing.

Sunrise, Sunset and the rest of Fever & Mirrors was a long time ago and though Conor Oberst has had time to have some filler albums and songs, I’ve enjoyed the journey from emotional rock god, to folk rock king, right into what I’ve dubbed the: “fuck you for calling me the new Bob Dylan and now that gets mentioned every goddamn time” hybrid period.

The “Fuck you for calling me the new Bob Dylan…” hybrid period is where he gets to explore his past writing and know his fan base will stick around for his new writing. It is a good spot for him.

If you had a following in the early 2000s and you’re still writing and still have fans, you’re well into the phase II of your career.

Phase II, loosely, is now you have your fans, now you can see your career path, and a good amount of what you’ve done and how you’ve done it has been in the public’s crosshairs. We know who he is, we’ve painted the picture of Conor Oberst, no matter how much he may have changed. Ask Alanis Morisette, she hasn’t been the angry girl at a break up since the mid-nineties, yet that’s the picture everyone still has of her.

I’ll continue to listen and watch Conor paint these pictures. I’ll scoff at his fans acting a little too emotional to the songs and realize I’m acting that way too, just not dancing to the beat.

Even when the song is upbeat. Even when he sings about coping, or one of a hundred ways to get through the day: it’s always a view through a window in the rain.

That’s Conor Oberst. That can’t ever change.