Photo by Shawn Brackbill; Courtesy of the Anthem

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Bright Eyes at the Anthem

Middle age sounds good on Conor Oberst. Unburdened by blinding expectations and weighty comparisons to the singer-songwriters of yesteryear, Oberst is enjoying a steady second wind. It must be liberating to no longer be tasked with saving his generation. After pausing Bright Eyes in the early 2010s to focus on other projects, he released Payola in 2015, the second album from his politically minded punk band Desaparecidos. Payola updated the band’s George W. Bush McMansion blues of 2002’s Read Music/Speak Spanish, maintaining its barbed spirit with a world-weary wisdom. In 2019, he teamed up with Phoebe Bridgers to become superduo Better Oblivion Community Center—the former boy wonder now playing the role of veteran collaborator to an extraordinary new talent. And in 2020, he circled back to Bright Eyes for Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, a comeback record containing all of the warmth and intimacy of his earlier work but without the melodrama often associated with it. Fill in your own mid-career Dylan comeback album comparison, if you must. Following his upcoming visit to the Anthem, Oberst will play the meme-inducing When We Were Young festival in Las Vegas, which culls any vaguely “emo” band that was successful (Dashboard Confessional, Paramore, All-American Rejects) and/or sounds like they might have been successful (Car Seat Headrest) in the early aughts. I was genuinely surprised to see Bright Eyes on the bill, not only for their stylistic differences, but because while Oberst might be best known for representing youthful angst, he’s not one to linger on the past. He’s still saying plenty worth listening to and will likely continue to do so, even When We Are Old(er). Bright Eyes perform at 8 p.m. on April 9 at the Anthem, 901 Wharf St. SW. $46–$76.