Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bright Eyes at Radio City

Last evening we took Becca and a friend to Radio City Music Hall for the Bright Eyes concert (the last stop on his 2007 Cassadaga tour). The covers for Bright Eyes were the Felice Brothers and then Thurston Moore. The Felice Brothers came on about 8:15 and played several of their countryish Americana songs. I’d never heard of the group before, but apparently they are mainly three brothers (along with friend Christmas) who grew up in the Catskills and began playing together. What was surprising in their music was the instrument that brother James Felice played—the accordion. I don’t think of that as being an instrument in a modern country/rock band, but it was and it worked well with the music being performed.

When they finished (around 9) there was a break and then Thurston Moore and his band came on to play. Moore is about my age and used to play with Sonic Youth before setting out with his own band. I’d heard a song or two of his from his mid-90’s Psychic Heart album and had never much liked its loud, abrastic rock music (Kathy’s description of it was acid rock), but things I’d read online had said he’d moved toward more folksy, more acoustic sounding performances. Well, if he has, we saw very little of it last night. I couldn’t wait for him to get off the stage.

There was another long, long break and a little after 10, Colin Oberst and his Bright Eyes band finally appeared. I only know a few of Bright Eyes songs, but from what I can tell most of the ones performed in last night’s show were from his new album. Oberst is clearly talented—playing guitar (acoustic and electric) and piano as well as singing—but I’m not really sure I like most of his music. I was more taken with his trumpet player, Nate Walcott, whose music was a beautiful addition to several of Bright Eyes (and the Felice Brothers) songs. At 11 pm, Bright Eyes left the stage and the audience began cheering—half heartedly, it seemed to me, because they were busy looking at the pictures they’d snapped during the show—and at about 11:15 Bright Eyes came back on for what I assumed would be a song or two encore.

Instead the group performed until about midnight, doing some of their better known songs-- “Lover I Don’t Have to Love”, for example, was their first encore song—and then inviting the earlier bands back to perform with them on various songs. This addition to the show—in which Oberst also talked a bit—was much better than the show itself. Bright Eyes and the Felice Brothers did Neil Young’s “Walk On” as part of it and all three bands got together to perform Tom Petty’s “Walls” as a final number.

What amazed me most about the evening wasn’t Bright Eyes (or for that matter either of the other bands) but the audience. Throughout the show, most of the audience (90 % of whom I’d guess were in their teens and 20s) spent huge amounts of their time taking pictures and making videos with their digital cameras and cell phones. In many of these pictures the bands were so small that I’ve no idea what they would possibly do with them afterwards. Rather than losing themselves in the music, singing with it, or moving with the melody, what most of the folks around me seemed to be doing was concentrating on what they were seeing through their electronic equipment. To me, it was a whole new way of attending a concert, one I’m not quite sure yet what to make of.

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