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Conor Oberst Central Park SummerStage Tuesday July 29, 2014 Reviewed

Amish hat?

Amish hat?

There comes a point in a man’s life where he’s too content for me to care anymore. Conor Oberst has reached this point. Seeing him at SummerStage (courtesy of Iman) made me realize he’s just a dad-aged married man who isn’t depressed enough for me.

Upside Down Mountain was a decent enough album and I knew he’d play a lot off it at the show, and he did “Time Forgot”, “Zigzagging Toward The Light”, “Hundreds Of Ways”, “Double Life”, “Governor’s Ball”, “Desert Island Questionnaire”, and “Artifact #1”. 6 out of the 13 on the album? A bit much, but at least he didn’t play his sad sack tunes the whole night.

He played the song my tattoo is based off of, “We Are Nowhere and it’s Now”, which I’ve been waiting to hear since I was 16 and saw him for the first time. It was lovely, ethereal, and fulfilled my dreams and was everything I wanted it to be. Unfortunately, someone went DOWN in the middle of the crowd, and it took forever for staff to come over and help the woman. Everyone was waving their arms and finally staff took action. Conor asked if everyone was ok to make sure, but luckily the woman was out of the crowd and alright by then.

I’m pretty sure everyone in the crowd freakin’ lost it when he played “Bowl of Oranges”. It was a little indie dance party, and jamming to the “Lifted” upbeat tune was something I swore off ever hearing. I never ever expected Conor to perform this song, same with “Old Soul Song”. My heart nearly stopped at “Hit The Switch”, one of my favorite Bright Eyes tunes, and I felt like the luckiest fan in the world. Conor was playing my absolute dream setlist.

“If The Brakeman Turns My Way” was Conor’s first sit-down of the evening, in contrast to the first time I saw him where he was on a stool with an acoustic the whole time. Everyone roared when he started it, all caught by surprise, probably by how damn good the setlist was. That along with “Lover I Don’t Have To Love” were definite crowd pleasers, and I feel like Conor performed it a bit tongue-in-cheek, realizing it’s so far from what he writes like now.

“Poison Oak” caused a few tears throughout the crowd- can ya blame anyone though? The “Wide Awake” ballad was beautifully done, soft and sweet. It felt sentimental and was a highlight of the set. Younger me who spent years always playing it on piano was in awe, as if everything just came full circle.

Bright Eyes was good. Sad, emo Conor Oberst solo stuff was good. His other side projects have all been fantastic. Now, he’s happy and it’s weird to see but I think I preferred him when he was depressed and shut off. I appreciated his words between songs because they were silly and positive, but it didn’t feel like a Conor Oberst show. It felt like a folk show that dads would go to (and there were. SummerStage is full of dads), which I think I would’ve appreciated had I not become a fan at the man’s emo peak. It’s a weird realization, feeling like I’ve grown out of who I’ve considered my favorite musician for years. I’ll still listen to him, I don’t skip Bright Eyes when it comes up on shuffle, but his newer work doesn’t appeal to me and some of his older stuff is unlistenable. Conor’s grown up, and I have too, and we’ve gone our separate ways.

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