By Alva Casey
Artist: Conor Oberst
Date / Venue: Monday March 2nd, The Powerstation, Auckland
It can be a rare occasion to come across Conor Oberst. But the fans that are, are dedicated. Upon entering the Powerstation last night that much was obvious. Well before the opening chords were struck the disciples were already collected around the stage. No shoving in this crowd. This was not a rave, this was an evening in audience with our musical idol. He took to the stage in a fabulous hat and with the revered The Felice Brothers as the backing band. Could you be any more perfectly folk?
It has been ten years since the former Bright Eyes front man graced our shores and he certainly made the wait worthwhile. Despite being here to promote his new solo album 'Upside Down Mountains' he was not at all shy to stray from its critically acclaimed material. The first song, 'Time Forgot', was indeed of its content but then for the next 45 minutes he wandered through his extensive back catalogue, frequently drawing from his Bright Eyes days with true classics such as 'Four Winds' (a personal highlight) and 'Poison Oak'. When he did return to the new material it was with as much vigour as the past favourites and received with as much enjoyment.
With a voice often breaking in emotion one cannot deny his passion and enthusiasm. It flowed over the stage amongst his fellow musicians and spilled out into the audience. It was a joy to watch the group on stage. They all interacted beautifully throughout the set often clustering together on the musical interludes clearly thriving in each other's company. Conor did perform a solo for 'This Is The First Day Of My Life' proving that he is as mesmerising on his own as in a group.
The evening was peppered with chats to the audience and shout outs to various people including The Felice Brothers who were incredible, the promoters who got him back to NZ and the lately deceased Leonard Nimoy.
Never mind that it was getting late on a Monday, the most detested of school nights, and never mind that we were sweating buckets clad in our too hot Indie uniform of skinny jeans and converse runners we wanted more. Following the most polite and coordinated encore beckoning that I have ever witnessed they strolled back out for the final set. Oberst had reclaimed his hat from the fantastic keyboardist and all together they serenaded us in a more contained fashion.
Afterwards as I strolled through the cooler late night air I felt that sense of happiness that only comes with seeing one your music heroes, years after you discovered them in your idealistic college era, and them not letting you down. Not in the slightest.