Live Review: Conor Oberst

By Niall Christie
O2 ABC, Glasgow, 22 August 2017

It was a triumphant return to Glasgow for troubled troubadour Conor Oberst as he sailed through what seemed like a greatest hits tour, with the adoration of fans pouring on to the stage throughout. With men and women alike proclaiming their love for the singer, and the occasional member of his backing band, it was never going to take much to get the crowd on side. However, complacency was never an option, with a two-hour show full of emotion living up to its billing.

Stage filled to the brim with accordions, fiddles, guitars and anything else the band dared to try their hand at, this was a gig that showed multi-talented Oberst at his very best.

Oberst and co had the crowd eating from the palm of their sweaty hands in the ABC.

Grief, addiction, world politics and any number of sexual exploits, no topics were off limits as the frontman let himself go, hopefully enjoying himself as much as the audience in the process.

Kicking in early on, Too Late to Fixate got the crowd to do just that with lyrical genius. However, the highlight of the night came just after the encore with Big Thief front woman Adrianne Lenker joining Oberst for a duet unrivalled by anything else I’ve heard in a long while. Diving deep into his repertoire, the pair performed a version of Bright Eyes favourite Lua that, being honest, should have closed the evening.

Other Bright Eyes anthems such as First Day of My Life and Poison Oak were standouts, clearly surviving the test of the past decade or so. Complemented by a number of tracks from Rumination and Salutations, and even a single Mystic River tune, Tuesday evening had the feel of a show from a musician doing a lap of honour. But given that much of the best material, notably Barbary Coast and Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out, I can only imagine that this is not the last time that Scotland has seen this modern monster of folk. And next time, I’d bet he’ll have another album in his pocket to add to his outstanding collection.

Support act Big Thief impressed the sizeable Glasgow crowd before they return to the city later this year.

Meanwhile, as mentioned in our picks for this week, those (few) who decided to stay for an extra couple in the pub and missed Big Thief have only themselves to blame.

Filling the ballroom at the ABC with their signature sound, their unfortunately short appearance had all of the intimacy of a 10 capacity coffee shop. Favourites such as Mary and Masterpiece were instantly recognised by a significant minority in the room. For Big Thief, little more need be said other than that this quiet and understated four piece are going places, and if you aren’t on the bandwagon yet now would be the ideal time to jump on.

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