by Frank Lewis
Conor Oberst is a man of many names. Most recognized as the driving force behind Bright Eyes, he has been recording and performing since he was 13. In recent years though, he has left his Bright Eyes moniker behind to tour with the Mystic Valley Band and Monsters of Folk. The latter is a collaboration with Jim James of My Morning Jacket and M. Ward, two leaders of the Americana roots rock revival, which seems to have influenced this latest endeavor with the Mystic Valley Band. A noted departure from his Bright Eyes material, Oberst’s current project is very much a tribute to the Traveling Wilburys, with acoustic guitars and an electric organ permeating the music. All this has allowed Oberst to tour more intimate venues, which was quite fine for the rabid, sold out crowd at the Grog Shop last night.
For just over 90 minutes Oberst and company ran through many of the songs off last year’s self-titled album and this year’s Outer South. Without really addressing the audience or his band, Oberst took control of the room, opening the set with “Sausalito” and “Nikorette.” For the most part the audience appeared to be enamored with seeing Oberst up close rather than knowing the band’s music, and as the set progressed the songs became hard to separate from one another. It was as if the band was on autopilot; songs like “Cape Canaveral” and “Danny Callahan” seemed to run together. To his credit, though, Oberst was content stepping back to support his band, occasionally providing backing vocals while one of his musicians took the lead. However, that usually didn’t last for long, and as the set wound down Oberst closed with a solo acoustic number before the band returned for a raucous four-song encore featuring “Ten Women” and “I Don’t Want to Die (in the Hospital).” — Aaron Mendelsohn