The minimalist stage was set for a solo evening with Conor Oberst. Conor switched between piano, guitar while the harmonica remained a constant. His songwriting took center stage at Carnegie Hall while the instruments like jewels glimmered around his poignant lyrics. The first half of the performance he played his new album Ruminations in full. Having purchased Ruminations recently, I was familiar with the raw pared down recordings. The accompaniment of Miwi La Lupa on bass and the acoustics at the Carnegie created an interesting dichotomy giving the songs magnitude while hearing private intimate songs become very public.
The second half he played older songs curated for content. They were familiar and with the advent of time took on new meaning as history unfolds post election.
Lenders in the Temple, Cape Canaveral, White Shoes, Passing Through (Leonard Cohen cover and dedication) Ladder Song, Lua, The Big Picture and At the Bottom of Everything.
Whether the material was old or new each word sung echoed through the majesty of the hall. Speaking to me as they always have for the last 16 years. Conor has become a seasoned performer, his lyrics carry levels of imagery and inference like no other. His phrasing and delivery creates the winning dynamic as chosen words are highlighted for affect or a consonant pronounced with clarity.
The audience at Carnegie Hall cheered from the top tiers every time Conor sang the line / victory is sweet, even deep in the cheap seats / from the song “Cape Canaveral”. The sound experience was the same regardless of the price or location of any given seat. The only seat I would have really liked was Sean Foley’s (harmonica cleaner) next to the grand piano with a fishbowl full of water.