Forever adolescent – Conor Oberst plays the National Concert Hall

Conor Oberst backstage
Photo by Hello My Name is Dev via Flickr

There were lots of hugs and kisses (onstage and offstage) for the forever-adolescent Conor Oberst when he closed his European acoustic solo tour in the National Concert Hall, his first headline date in Dublin in 11 years.

Oberst last visited Ireland under the guise of Bright Eyes to play Oxegen 2011. It now appears he has since retired the band name, but luckily that doesn’t mean he has put his impressive back-catalogue to bed.

The Concert Hall set consisted of tracks by all three of Conor Oberst’s main projects – Bright Eyes, the Mystic Valley band and Monsters of Folk – as well as some new ones. He responded to the usual silent response to new tracks with: “I know this excites the shit out of you.”

The emotive songwriter, who has done a lot of growing up in the last five or six years, seemed acutely aware of the audience throughout. There was plenty of back and forth chatting and Oberst was particularly drawn to two young female fans in the front row.

“I thought you guys were one person,” he said. “I thought you were Siamese twins. Think of the possibilities,” he added.

He wrongfully gave the “twins” a microphone for a sing-along later on – knowing the words (which were easy: “la, la, la, la”) didn’t make up for their appalling voices.

Oberst’s performance was intimate in both the abstract and literal sense (at one point he hugged the entire front row).

The mishmash audience – consisting of tweenagers, emos, 30-year-old long-term fans and Concert Hall regulars – was silent throughout the show. There were some definite tearjerker moments – ‘First Day of My Life’ being the obvious one.

Oberst’s stage presence can be intimidating at times – he hammered a grand piano, broke multiple guitar strings and went from singing softly to roaring in quick moments.

‘You Are Your Mother’s Child’ was another emotional highlight and ‘At the Bottom of Everything’ and ‘Classic Cars’ went down a storm.

The set was well selected, delving deep into Oberst’s 20-year career, but it would have been nice had ‘Lua’ been included.

The show was rousing and engaging, and Oberst received a deserved standing ovation when it all came to a close.

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