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Conor Oberst At Central Park Summerstage, Tuesday, July 29th, 2014, Reviewed

Conor Oberst At Summerstage, July 2014

Conor Oberst At Summerstage, July 2014

As a long time and consistent advocate of the use of of cellphones at concert, a war certainly won by now, I may very well have been wrong. I made my way to the front of the stage for Conor Oberst’s set at Summerstage last night, only to be forced away by a woman’s loud piercing constant shouting over the band for the first three songs.

A mistake, I should have stayed.

Everywhere I went people were engrossed in long conversationson the top of their lungs.  I went right into the middle of the audience and still there were people talking all round me, I went to the back of Summerstage. Hell, I went to the side of the stage and spied Jenny Lewis doing what? Having a conversation. There was nowhere I could listen to the concert in peace.

It wasn’t Conor’s fault, Conor will never be the bright eyed one we loved at Town Hall in 2007 again  but he was pretty good despite a couple of lulls. No,  this was the audience  at work and my feeling is the Iphone has thrown the audience so far out of the experience, they are ignorant to the bad manners to those around them and the musicians themselves. They forget they are at a concert. I didn’t expect this, it drives me crazy when people speak to me at concerts which is why I usually go alone. At least if you’re sending pictures to Facebook you aren’t making noise, but apparently the concept of  simply listening has died.

Dawes bored me in the opening set; I have never been a fan of 21st century So Cal sounds and they did nothing to change my mind, plus they didn’t play their best song “Coming Back To A Man”  and I missed their second best song, which they opened the set with. All that Largo super tasteful drags me up, it is so antithetical to the waiting for a man, dirty raw spirit of rock and roll, that it is difficult for me to get over it. Let’s say, whether fair or not, this stuff has two strikes against it before they open their mouths, and they weren’t that thrilling any way. Good vibes schmug vibes.

Speaking of two strikes, I didn’t much care for Conor’s Upside Down Mountain, but I could be wrong, you know. The first three songs of the evening were sprung from the first three songs of the album and it was everything you couldn’t hoped for and changed my mind at least about those songs. Played with Bright eyes-y full throttle intensity, plus horns, plus back up singers, plus two girls on guitar, plus Conor emoting the holy fuck out of them, they supercharged the evening. I didn’t like the horns on “Hundreds Of Ways on the recorded version, but it worked here and the three song opening did something Conor didn’t quite do at Carnegie Hall a couple of years ago, it grew him up without changing him.

Also, he didn’t sit down for the entire set the way he did at Carnegie Hall, though he did wear a huge black hat which he didn’t take off till the measly two song encore thereby ruining it for the girls who wanted to stare lovingly at him.

The set itself wasn’t the most brilliant construction of all time, the lulls were deep and they were pervasive and while Conor could sure sing em, during a four song run right in the middle of the ball I felt like scouting out some buddies and having a conversation. Only an excellent “Danny Callahan” and “When The Brakeman Turns My Way”  saved the show from being a shrug, that and the best version of “I’ve Got A Reason” I have ever heard. This newly rearranged take on his masterpiece (my favorite song on 2009 in demo form) leaned just hard enough on the keyboards and the lyric, which are about as great as any song you’ll ever hear, packed so much punk via Ray Manzarek. The extended coda was magnificent. It was worth the price of admission alone.

And people spoke right through it.

I spoke right through “Lua”, the first song of the encore but myself, my friend Gary and his girlfriend rock nyc’s very own Mary Magpie were near the exit when we did talk. Gary and Mary were in a rush to grab the 1030 Metro North to Connecticut (which is something of an oxymoron, you can’t be in a hurry to leave nyc for Conn) still when I last saw Mary she was 13 years old and going to  “Wicked” at the Gershwin and here she was all grown up. It was a pleasure to visit with my favorite writer again.

As for Conor, from 2007 to now my expectations have lessened and lessened and what would have been considered a disaster in 2009 sounds pretty good in 2014.

Grade: B+

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