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- Bright Eyes »
Some people hate Conor Oberst, y’know. Judging by a packed sweaty stripy jumper-clad crowd, quite a few love the guy too. It soon becomes apparent why Bright Eyes inspire such extremes of human emotion.
At times, Oberst is a brilliant pulsating ball of raw nerves and energy. All too often, however, that’s replaced with a vague sense of pretension from a whiny attention-seeker who deserves your rage and a damn good slap round the chops.
Yes, he is pretty cool; ruffled hair and messy demeanour belying Bright Eyes’ occasionally shambolic musical nature. But is it the kind of cool only attained by hours in front of dressing room mirrors; an anti fashion statement by design?
Whatever, realistically Conor Oberst _is_ Bright Eyes – the rest of the band exist in the way Christine Aguilera’s dancers do. Which would be fine, if their flawed leader didn’t need a helping hand once in a while.
So you think the new Bob Dylan has been born, even before the original one has joined the great singer-songwriter convention in the sky? (Where incidentally, you’ll doubtless find Nick Drake, John Fahey and Gram Parsons desperately closing the pearly gates before Jeff Buckley tries to steal inside.) Have you fucks even listened to a Dylan record??? They’re both men with guitars and, well, that’s it.
Rant over, the trifling fact that one of the hottest days, like, ever is melting walls in Manchester is overridden by the frustration of Oberst’s inconsistencies. A handful of quite stunning new tracks, which mix some subtle electronics into the patented Bright Eyes acoustic cake, make the less inventive fan faves bearable. But then comes the encore. Oh, the encore – or how to ruin a half-decent gig #263.
Now Oberst has never been shy of voicing political views, to the point where his rocking Desaparecidos project gave birth to an entire album bristling with indignation and shame at much-derided neo-conservative US policy. And it was awesome; much more suited to the stripy-jumpered one’s angry whimpering.
With Bright Eyes as his vehicle, the comparative impact is dulled somewhat. When bands like Rage Against The Machine have taken politics and music then jammed them into an existence as real life direct action activists (as opposed to the wanky wear-a-CND-badge student version), why the bleeding hell do things half cocked?
Oberst whinges, almost apologetically, about America’s reign of imperialism – a laudable campaign in the right hands and with the right retaliatory ammunition.
But how are Bright Eyes going to mobilise change? Well, silly, the best course of action is normally to play some indie-rock to an assembled mass that knows the world is fucked already. Then wake up the next morning and wonder why everything’s the same. Miss Black America eat your heart out.
You want a superstar? Look elsewhere. You need politics? Buy some RATM, Public Enemy, the Dead Kennedys, or just become a damn MP. You yearn for an entertaining acoustic rock spectacle? Forget concerts; a Bright Eyes album will suffice.
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