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Conor Oberst lives it up at The Greek Theatre

Conor Oberst at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles

Most artists don’t have a second act, but for Conor Oberst, he must be in the double digits by now. Saturday night at The Greek Theatre, with mountains peaking above the stage and a cool wind blowing through the crowd, Oberst proved that his newest form is one of a charismatic bandleader and showman, miles away from the shy, boyish scamp of the late 1990’s.

He’s on the road in support of Salutations, his eighth studio album, one away from matching his Bright Eyes output. It’s a blend of the folk and jam he’s nearly perfected, recreating it live by going full Dylan with a harmonica holder braced across his face. He’s brought together the members of The Felice Brothers as his backing band, flanked by a shredding guitarist, the perfectly named Taylor “Paper” Hollingsworth. Together, they bring his work to life, with tracks spanning his career and multiple bands, taking the focus away from one album and covering the songs his fans most connect with.

Before his headline set, Julien Baker made the crowd swoon with her enchanting acoustic poetry. While her Bright Eyes-inspired lyric tattoo she had inked on her ankle wasn’t showing, his influence on her was. Each song plucked a tender emotional string, as she did the same with her guitar. While not a household name, the early crowd knew exactly what she was about and cheered before and after each song, bringing smiles to the singular figure in the middle of a giant stage. While not an exact warm-up for the main event, energy-wise, it was the perfect setup for what most Oberst fans find most pleasant.

When he finally took the stage, played in by P!nk’s “Get The Party Started,” it was obvious that this wouldn’t be a solemn affair. Of the 20 songs played, only a few required just an acoustic guitar and even when they did, the backing band filled out the sound with an accordion or fiddle. The female output didn’t end with Baker’s opening set, as Phoebe Bridgers appeared mid-set to sing “Lua” with Oberst, a song he said he didn’t like anymore but enjoyed when they played it together.

Oberst’s banter and charm helped elevate an already solid show, with jokes in between most songs bringing genuine laughter from the crowd. He comically introduced a song from Monsters of Folk, a side project that included Oberst, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, and Mike Mogis, as a song from one of the most important bands in musical history. Before playing the title track off of his new record, he asked the crowd how they felt about title tracks:

“You guys like title tracks? I’m a big title track guy, everybody knows that.”

This upbeat attitude was welcoming and wholly important to the night’s success, as were the few Bright Eyes covers needed to bridge the gap between fans of his early work and his current self. Regardless of the name, set, or persona, Conor Oberst continues to solidify one of the most prolific and adored careers in the past 25 years. This show only helped show what he can do given the energy of his fans, a positive attitude, and a treasure trove of amazing songs.

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