Friday, June 17, 2011

Bright Eyes in Zurich, Bloomsday 2011

At one point in the Bright Eyes show at Kaufleuten in Zurich last night, Conor Oberst asked the audience if it was Thursday. I shouted several times that it was Bloomsday, but all he heard was Tuesday. Perhaps he doesn't know his James Joyce and was thus not aware of the significance of playing the city where Joyce died on the day that Ulysses takes place.

But that's almost the only negative thing I have to say about the show. The band opened with my two favorite Bright Eyes songs, but if I was briefly worried that things would go downhill from there, they proved me wrong. The arrangements were full of dynamic range, from quiet folk-picking passages to explosions of aggressive guitar and punk drumming, and Oberst's singing is just as good live as it is on record: sweet and childlike at times, then veering quickly into a kind of in-tune shouting that is quite hard to pull off.

I said "almost" the only negative thing above, because I do have one negative comment to add, even though it is one that has to do with my expectations about live music rather than the band's performance: they stick quite close to the album arrangements of the songs throughout, giving themselves little room to take the songs to other places. I found this especially ironic in "Beginner's Mind," which Oberst introduced as being about "keeping an open mind when everything is telling you not to," which made the tightly controlled arrangement seem to contradict the song's intent. Only in the three songs of the encore did the band begin to muck about with the studio arrangements to any significant degree—and to great effect, especially in an overwhelming version of "Road to Joy."

But that's me; clearly, Oberst and his cohort are aiming at playing tight arrangements well, and not at exploring more open arrangements. And they do play their arrangements superbly, so it's really only a minor quibble. (And I just happened to look up one of the songs to make sure I was remembering it correctly, and the arrangement on a live YouTube video from 2007 is radically different.)


At the Bottom of Everything
Four Winds
Haile Selassie
Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
Jejune Stars
Shell Games
Approximate Sunlight
Arc of Time (Time Code)
Cartoon Blues
Poison Oak
Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)
Hot Knives
Bowl of Oranges
Lover I Don't Have To Love
Beginner's Mind
The Calendar Hung Itself
The Ladder Song

Land Locked Blues
Road to Joy
One for You, One for Me

1 comment:

Peter said...

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (2 February 1882 – 13 January 1941)

June 16,1904 is the day Joyce took Nora Barnacle to Ringsend,thus celebrated as Bloomsday.

But you knew that already.