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Conor Oberst North Florida Show Review

Conor Oberst Brings Expansive Repertoire and Emotional Authenticity to Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
Review by: Liz Pena, photos: Jennifer Hyams

At 37 years old, Conor Oberst has now been writing and releasing music for over half his life. Despite enduring both musical and personal changes, he has continued to steadily release music with different projects including Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, his own solo releases, and other groupings of his ever evolving lineup. Oberst’s 2017 tour follows the release of his latest record Salutations as well as 2016 release Ruminations. With so much new music released since his last appearance in North Florida, Conor Oberst’s October 17 show at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall was a highly anticipated event.

Before Oberst came to the intimate venue’s stage, Tim Kasher played some of his own quirky solo tracks as well as his hit with Cursive “From the Hips.” Kasher and Oberst were a huge part of the 90’s and 2000’s indie scene. Their appearance together is nostalgic, but because the two have continued to release new music outside the bands that made them famous, they take on a whole new dynamic as tourmates.

Conor Oberst Ponte Vedra. Photo by Jennifer Hyams,
Conor Oberst at Ponte Vedra. Photo by Jennifer Hyams,

Oberst has a massive repertoire to play from and there was a swelling buzz about what songs might be played that evening. When he opened with a patient and emotionally authentic performance of “Lenders in the Temple,” it was clear Bright Eyes fans would not be let down that night. As the evening went on he played other Bright Eyes tracks including “Something Vague,” “Make War,” and “At the Bottom of Everything” alongside solo tracks less than a year old.

Immediately before playing an unreleased new song tentatively titled “LAX,” Oberst had played a simple Bright Eyes hit he wrote over twenty years ago – “June on the West Coast.” It is clear that he values his audiences’ experience, including those who may be seeing him for the first time. He brings a fully focused energy to each song and obviously understands the importance of his old sound to his success today as he brings that emotion and sound to his performance. He touched on his folksier releases with the Mystic Valley Band like “Ten Women” (a crowd favorite of the night), and preformed several of his solo releases from the past two years like “Salutations,” “Empty Hotel by the Sea,” and “Napalm.”

Conor Oberst has a way of pouring his entire being into each moment of his live show, from tender and heart wrenching moments delivered over soft pianos to crass and impassioned political interludes. He has a sense of immense connection to every song and he buries himself in each as he plays it. His entire demeanor changes from song to song and he has an incredible magnetic pull with the audience.

Conor Oberst Ponte Vedra. Photo Jennifer Hyams,
Conor Oberst at Ponte Vedra. Photo by Jennifer Hyams,

During the show Conor showed his versatile nature by performing piano, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and vocals in different combinations. He performed solo, with only his keyboardist, and with a full band, even bringing his opening acts on stage for a celebratory rendition of Tom Petty’s “Walls.” He shows a huge sense of affection and appreciation to his band and opening acts that is rare to see and clearly genuine. This genuine nature is what sets everything about Conor Oberst apart from other musicians and other live shows.

We look forward with great anticipation to Conor Oberst return to the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall ; his performance was truly memorable.

Liz Pena

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