Conor Oberst will make you feel all the feels. His rambling melodies carry heartbreakingly raw real-life stories, traversing sweet nostalgia and ending up in some very dark, very lonely places. Listening to him play makes you want to drink whiskey, sit by a crackling log fire and have a good old think about life.
Backed and supported by The Felice Brothers, a five piece folk rock set from New York, Oberst kicked things off with Bright Eyes favourites Napoleon’s Hat, Southern State and Four Winds before leading into Time Forgot off latest album Upside Down Mountain.
For a pretty unassuming guy he’s got incredible stage presence. He sings with his whole body, gesturing wildly between strums and passionately acting out the stories behind his songs.
Before launching into crowd winner We Are Nowhere And It’s Now, Conor explains: “This song is about the in-between moments. The moments of your life that slip through the cracks, that you don’t pay attention to…that actually make up your life.” So. Many. Feels.
Despite some of his more melancholy lyrics, the bright folk sound and frantic violin of The Felice Brothers has everyone dancing along. Their opening set delivered a solid collection of high-energy folk tracks. Conor joined them on stage early on for a verse of Wonderful Life.Frankie’s Gun even featured the good old-fashioned washboard.
Oberst opted for a range of Bright Eyes favourites such as An Attempt to Tip the Scales, Method Acting and Poison Oak, and only a smattering of tracks off his latest album including Artifact#1 and Hundreds of Ways.
He insisted on no filming or use of mobile phones throughout the two-hour set: “If you were born after 1985 and have a very short attention span you can leave and check your iPhones outside”.
The lack of faces lit up by that telltale blue light created a far more intimate atmosphere, especially during the opening to his encore The First Day of My Life, where the crowd was so still and so silent you could appreciate every breathy crack of his voice.
Oberst rounded off the night with by covering Tom Petty’s Walls, followed by Milk Thistle and Song to Pass the Time before ending on Another Travelin Song – which descended into general rock and roll chaos as cymbals and microphone stands were kicked to the ground.
Conor Oberst is a born storyteller and incredibly dynamic performer. He can go from a breathy whisper to a scream in the length of a lyric. As he blissfully spun circles strumming his guitar, it was clear he was having a pretty great time and it’s safe to say the crowd was too.
Gallery: Conor Oberst @ Sydney’s Metro Theatre / Photos: Jack Cowling