Live Review: Bright Eyes at Westfair Amphitheater

Conor Oberst performs with Bright Eyes at Westfair Amphitheater on June 4, 2011. Photo: CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD

Sorry that I’m so late in posting this, but better late than never, right?

Anyway, I feel safe in saying that Saturday night’s Bright Eyes set at Westfair Amphitheater was the best one I’ve ever seen from the band.

It was very similar to the set they played in Austin for SXSW, which I reviewed then. The set was once again heavy on the band’s latest album, “The People’s Key,” though it also sampled from a lot of old material.

What I enjoyed was the influence that “The People’s Key” had on the rest of the set. Since it’s a more keyboard-heavy, forceful album, it caused the band to perform the rest of the songs that way.

“Lover I Don’t Have To Love” is a great song, but Conor Oberst sang it with more conviction and it had a little more thump with the band that he had assembled, which included permanent members Nate Walcott and Mike Mogis as well as Clark Baechle on drums, Andy LeMaster on bass, Laura Burhenn on keys and backing vocals and Scott McPherson on additional percussion.

Baechle’s drumming, which you all know from The Faint, has a drive to it and, coupled with MacPherson on another kit, fueled a lot of the songs.

Additionally, songs such as “Take It Easy (Love Nothing)” fit in the set just as well as “Hot Knives” or “Bowl Of Oranges.”

Oberst is way more confident onstage than I’ve ever seen him. In the past, Oberst had problems performing in front of crowds so bad that he was notorious for his freakouts. That doesn’t happen any more, but even in recent years, I wouldn’t have described Oberst as “chatty.”

But on Saturday, he was playing the frontman role pretty damn well. He owned the microphone and though he mostly stayed behind a mic stand playing a guitar, he occasionally ran around the stage, danced it up and even crowdsurfed during the night-ending “One For You, One For Me.”

He was relaxed enough to talk to the crowd a lot, too.

“Thanks so much y’all thanks for comin’ tonight,” he said. “We’re so happy to be here to be here on such a beautiful night. Thank God for that. And we really appreciate y’all coming from wherever you came from, driving here to be with us.”

Several people during the show (and a couple I’ve talked to since) remarked that the sound mix was unbelievably good. Westfair has never been my favorite venue, but it sounded glorious the other night.

I hope the band sticks to a similar formula for future tours, though you never know with Oberst and his pals. They like to change things up.

Good sets also came from the rest of the day’s lineup. Con Dios, David Bazan (formerly of Pedro The Lion) and Jenny & Johnny (Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley and singer-songwriter Johnathan Rice) rounded out the day’s music.

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World-Herald photographer Chris Machian was also at Saturday’s show and he caught some pretty great images of the show. Check them out.

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Bright Eyes’ setlist

Firewall
Jejune Stars
Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
Four Winds
Trees Get Wheeled Away
Something Vague
We Are Nowhere And It’s Now
Shell Games
Approximated Sunlight
Arc Of Time
Falling Out Of Love At This Volume
A Celebration Upon Completion
Bowl Of Oranges
Hot Knives
Cartoon Blues
Triple Spiral
No One Would Riot For Less
Old Soul Song (For The New World Order)
The Calendar Hung Itself
Ladder Song
ENCORE
Gold Mine Gutted
Lover I Don’t Have To Love
Road To Joy
One For You, One For Me

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“Bright Eyes performs “Something Vague” at Saturday’s show.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwTrd1LRYu0]

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