Live: Conor Oberst at Terminal 5


photos by Catherine Trestini

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
Terminal 5
November 9

If you thought it was irritating having to call Bright Eyes a band, just wait ‘til you get a load of Boy Genius’ “solo project,” wherein he ignores his “Bright Eyes” catalog altogether and jams for an hour and a half from this year’s Conor Oberst and unreleased vaults alone. Not that he actually knows why he gets away with it (because, to these ears, Conor Oberst is quietly his best record), not that he gives a shit either way. Like (shh) Dylan, the guy loves to set up guises for himself like play-sets and lose himself inside—beats alcohol poisoning. On Sunday, he was a huckster at a Million Dollar Bash, smiling and kidding and even dancing (!) through loose-roots shimmies like “Get-Well-Cards” and “Sausalito.” Like a good Obamalyte, he introed with a hearty “Today is a fucking great day to be alive!” Today, thankfully, there would be no “When the President Talks to God.”

The gapless chant “NYC—Gone Gone” into rousing single “Souled Out!!” proved a superb arena-rock move, a strange role for the strangely hatted icon of the LiveJournal generation to play-act, though he best begin working these personas while he’s young. Only the mostly-slow new songs bogged things down a bit, though two exceptions were the playful “Spoiled” and the Motown-like “10 Women,” which Oberst introduced as a “promiscuous” song (“With two faces/You’ll never be true”). During the encore, Oberst goofily tried blues karaoke for a sprawling “Corrina, Corrina,” while opener Ben Kweller (underrated live act, FYI) danced around the stage, maniacally enthused to just be there. And the so-called M.V.B. burned barns on “I Don’t Wanna Die (In a Hospital),” which kept ending when no one wanted it to, eventually taking the show with it. Crucial element captured: it’s fun watching the self-absorbed finally getting a kick out of themselves. — Dan Weiss