Thursday, June 18, 2009

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band

I first saw Conor Oberst in the mid-1990s in an early incarnation of Bright Eyes, when he was playing with a cellist and still in the midst of teen angst. The last time I saw Bright Eyes was at Radio City Music Hall at Thanksgiving 2007, where the delivery was top-notch but the acoustics were rotten. Soon after that, Oberst retired the Bright Eyes logo and went down to Mexico, where he since recorded two albums with a bunch of close friends (including Nik Freitas) under the name "Mystic Valley Band."

Conor and MVB opened their national 2009 tour June 17 at Colorado Springs' lovely dive, Black Sheep, and it struck me how much he and the band have morphed into rowdy Americana of a Flying Burrito Bros. or Jayhawks flavor.

Before going further, I should mention he chose two fine opening acts to tour with him: the singer-songwriter Michael Runion, who I regret have no videos of, but who offers dynamite harmonies with his cousin Sarah; and Jessica Dobson, the new guitarist for Beck, who records under the name Deep Sea Diver. Jessica has an EP out, with a full-length in the works, and here's a sample of her new material:

I couldn't begin to video all the tunes I really liked, since Conor played a long set - particularly sad not to get his excellent rendition of "Cape Canaveral." Did capture some pretty nice songs, including "Slowly (Oh So Slowly)", "Get Well Cards", "Souled Out!", and "Big Black Nothing." Then it was on to an acoustic version of "Lenders in the Temple":

Later highlights in the evening included "Cabbage Town", "NYC Gone Gone", and "Hospital"(sorry, I only caught an excerpt at the end). Before his final encore song, he said he had just seen Noam Chomsky a couple nights earlier, and Chomsky put him in the kind of mood he was in when he wrote "Roosevelt Room":

Conor heads to Telluride Bluegrass Festival for a lineup that includes Elvis Costello, Jenny Lewis, and David Byrne (since Conor's sung a lot with Emmylou Harris and she'll be at Telluride, I would expect surprises), then it's on to the West Coast for opening dates with Wilco. Don't miss him!

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