The full-on rock spectacle that is Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band was on display last night at the 9:30 Club. For me, the transition from quirky Americana to Oberst’s special brand of theatrical rock was “Road to Joy’s” proclamation “Let’s fuck it up boys…make some noise!” from 2004’s I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning.
Subsequent releases like the Four Winds EP, Cassadaga, and the centerpiece from the 9:30 show, Conor Oberst, have pushed his sound into Wilco territory (exemplified by last night’s rollicking version of Oberst’s “NYC-Gone, Gone”) while still hewing to his Mobius-strip lyrical style. Watching the show, it’s clear the rock attitude has become personified in his live playing, upper torso all Mike Ness, and his legs moving like Tattoo You-era Mick Jagger.
When he and bandmate Macey Taylor pulled up the stools for a quiet acoustic duet on “Milk Thistle,” I flashed on what Conor may have become had he hailed from ’80s New Jersey instead of Omaha. And taking another cue from the ’80s, with the eye-covering fedora and highly cuffed jeans, Conor was missing only the silver glove to complete the Thriller era MJ look.
No comment on Conor Oberst would be complete without a Bob Dylan reference. While the musical and lyrical comparisons at this point are so stupidly obvious, the Bob in Conor came out at the end of the show as he commented on president elect Barack Obama’s historic election: “Let’s hope he comes through for us.”
Not very declarative, cynical almost. Sound like anyone?