Marathon Men

Eno's Music for Airports at a 26-hour fete; Bright Eyes triumphantly caps a seven-night run

Sure, the string section was ridiculous— "Four Winds," the catchiest and most propulsive of the ELO-meets-Wilco rock tunes Conor's recently favored, benefited tremendously when the orchestra consisted solely of adorable violinist Anton Patzner, happily sawing away. But most other tunes on Bright Eyes' new Cassadaga came off equally well, especially "Make a Plan to Love Me," a gooey ballad with a nonetheless gorgeous bridge, Janet expertly pitching in on the bah-bah-bah harmonies. Over the course of his nearly decade-long cultural ascent, Conor's unleashed a few terrible and shrill debacles ("When the President Talks to God" being the worst song of the past five years), but none of those crashed this party, where only "Lime Tree" was a true dud, and that merely due to dullness. (Incidentally, during "Lime Tree," Conor was engulfed in Pentecostal candlelight projected on the back wall, and by an actual candle, even. Up in the balcony sat a dude with an overhead projector who handled all the visuals manually, dumping food coloring into a glass of water and blowing into it with a straw, making live-action crayon drawings with a little kid, busting out an Etch A Sketch, etc. A very pleasing analog approach.)

A perfectly acceptable way to enjoy the music of Brian Eno
photo: Willie Davis/Veras
A perfectly acceptable way to enjoy the music of Brian Eno

The whole show teetered on the edge of pompous, overserious self-absorption, but lighthearted stuff like that helped Conor's cause tremendously. As did the rumbling atonal freak-out finale, bodies and tambourines and violin bows flying everywhere. Janet was almost impaled by a keytar. Spoon's Britt Daniel—another special guest, yes, but only for a rushed and weak two-song encore—stood in a far corner, impassively tapping on a tambourine. And though Conor's flower-whipping, piano-smashing tirade was the focal point, the true epicenter was bluegrass queen Gillian Welch, who along with piano-smashing accomplice David Rawlings served as our opening act. ("Throw Me a Rope," hopefully bound for her next album, is a haunting and mellow monster.) Gillian's stage presence is, to put it mildly, a great deal calmer and quieter than Conor's, but she did her best to fit in during the finale, hopping around nervously in her red dress and whacking a pair of conga drums quasi-rhythmically. She looked hilarious. She'd also just played an hour-long set at a sizable Times Square venue for seven straight days. Conor wields his tremendous power awkwardly at times, but his heart's in the right place, and everyone in Town Hall was in the right place too.

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