A Stunning Live Collection
With two albums already this year, you'd think the market would be saturated with Bright Eyes, but there's still room for another corking Conor Oberst album like this to light up fans' Christmas, and yes, some of the lyrics are politically incendiary.
'At The Bottom Of Everything' starts of proceedings with a jangly, overtly light and breezy country tune, but of course once you listen to the lyrics, you realise it's far from a harmless redneck strum-a-long. Lyrics like "Into the face of every criminal strapped firmly to a chair/We must stare, we must stare, we must stare", are the adept political offerings that have given this band so much success. The live sets are clearly finely choreographed as we spill into the shimmering 'We Are Nowhere And It's Now' with buzzing Spanish guitars, the coarse, trembling vocals evoke a sense of bitter dissatisfaction. Delightfully oblique, poetic and self-referential, this really is a subtle masterpiece that not only charms the intellect, but fills your ears with equal joy.
The delightful cascade of songs from 'I'm Wide Awake It's Morning' ends with two intriguing version of 'Make War', the first lasts 43 seconds and proves testimony to the spontaneity of Oberst's performances and the crowd's love for him, I'll leave you to sample this curious short version for yourselves. The long version is another vibrant tune with country slide guitar and impassioned vocals before it reaches the pinnacle of snarling and chattering guitars. Your certainly also get used to Oberst's coarse shouting during the driving crescendos in this live performance; the crackling atmosphere translates perfectly onto the record.
Some mellow brass perfectly plays off the frustrated vocals in spasmodic 'Scale' while 'Landlocked Blues' receives an instant cheer even before the intensity of the introduction probably brings a tear to many eyes. The acoustic presentation of this tune is especially powerful with the crowd applauding lines in almost every verse and even the remote listener feels closer to the throbbing Bright Eyes catch phrases - if it's not too cheap to call the witty and deeply smart lines this.
The blistering 'Method Acting' burns up some ear holes with its powerful guitar backing and onslaught of bitter lyrics, "It's a shocking bit of TV footage viewed from a shitty TV screen". As a contrast, 'Train Underwater' begins with a fragile, soft introduction before the delightful 'When The President Talks To God' comes on with an even more charming introduction informing us that it is for "our ignorant, arrogant and most of all incompetent president". The song continues in a brash, blunt vein that the fans seem to lap up with cynical pleasure, it seems that Oberst is unable to even sing most of the song, spitting it out because of the biting content. The pulsating, militaristic drums leading into the anti-war 'Road To Joy' are pretty impressive; it seems that Oberst's anger alone could take out the President.
We're also treated to two covers, 'Mushaboom' by Feist, with whom Bright Eyes will be touring, and 'The Biggest Lie' by Elliot Smith, which is the perfect closer with its dewy acoustic vibes.
Another collection of breezy, strum-a-long songs imbued with political rage and poetic lyrics from Bright Eyes, but this one is special with limited release; fans should definitely try to track it down as the passion of the live performance carries across extremely well and the mix of tracks makes a defiant statement.