Bright Eyes Make Some Country Noise

Conor Oberst (a.k.a Bright Eyes), the long-reigning king of angst, seems to have traded in his forlorn crown for a cowboy hat. Sporting shoulder length hair and a button down shirt at L.A.’s El Rey Theatre, Oberst looked more like Johnny Cash than a sad-eyed emo kid. Backed by violin, mandolin, trumpet, lap steel, and a harmonica-playing M. Ward, Bright Eyes charged through new cuts such as “Reinvent the Wheel,” “Smoke Without Fire,” and “Stray Dog Blues” with country hoedown gusto. Older tunes such as “Another Travelin’ Song,” “Old Soul Song (For the New World Order),” and “Make War” reflected Oberst’s country state of mind. While Bright Eyes’ backing soundtrack seems to have been replaced by saloon worthy honky-tonk, rest assured: Those jarring indie vocals of yore still occasionally run free. ELISA JACOBS / PHOTOS BY JESS LEE

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