Bright Eyes @ Corona Theatre

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It’s my third show in a week, so I’m definitely starting to feel the burn, but after the concert-less misery that was lockdown, I’ve resolved never to complain about gig fatigue ever again.  And as tired as I might be, I’m also pretty excited to see Bright Eyes again on their first visit to Montreal since Osheaga in 2011, back when I actually used to still go to Osheaga… wow, how to show your age in 1 paragraph!

One of the most endearing facets of Bright Eyes is, of course, frontman and band founder Conor Oberst.  There has always been a vulnerability, a fragility, an honesty to every word he says, and it translates just as well live as it does on record.  Even the imperfect moments of the show just serve to make everyone root for Conor even more!  After a stunning Spring Cleaning, Conor seems to remain engaged with that song as the band moves into If The Brakeman Turns My Way, admitting, “I wanna keep singing the other song!”  The guy behind the walls of keyboards reminds him of the first line of the song, and normal service is resumed.  Later, midway through Poison Oak, Conor returns to the mic after a roam around the stage, accidentally banging it into the mic stand and knocking the mic to the floor with a mighty thud.  The crowd roars in approval, a tech replaces the mic, the song continues, and the singalong is notably louder than before the mishap.  A mysterious buzzing sound emanating from Conor’s guitar for the rest of the song doesn’t detract from the moment either.  Conor acknowledges it at the song’s completion: “sorry my guitar was f**ked up!”  Cue another almighty roar; he truly can do no wrong!

Just like Beth Orton earlier in the week, Bright Eyes also deserve kudos for not scrimping on the live experience in a time where tours seem to be getting cancelled left, right, and centre due to the harsh economic reality associated with the whole process these days.  Tonight, we have eight musicians on stage at once, rotating a variety of instruments throughout and creating a memorable sonic experience.  Dance and Sing starts the show with a wall of noise from all eight on stage until a combination of clarinet, pedal guitar, and violin blaze out while Conor prowls the front of the stage before the keyboardist rounds out the magical Lover I Don’t Have To Love with a trumpet solo.  Neely O’Hara kicks up the drums to another level as Conor annihilates an effects box for some noisy distortion.  An Attempt To Tip The Scales goes percussion-heavy, with 5 of the 8 rattling those little egg-shakers before twin drums take over in conjunction with a saxophone to frenetic effect.  By contrast, the glorious First Day Of My Life strips things right down to bare bones, with just the violinist joining Conor and his acoustic guitar at the front, and sounds absolutely spectacular, eliciting the biggest singalong of the night.  Haile Selassie features a guest appearance on vocals from Alynda Segarra from opening band Hurray For The Riff Raff, and for a song I didn’t know too well beforehand, that sounds pretty immense too.

As the show draws to a close after an hour and three quarters, Conor expresses his gratitude from his side of the room: “y’all are too much; it means a lots that y’all came out!”  The roar that greets that sentence confirms the feeling is mutual.  A tremendous return for Bright Eyes and a perfect remedy for the gig fatigue!


  1. Dance and Sing
  2. Lover I Don’t Have to Love
  3. Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)
  4. Method Acting
  5. Double Joe (Simon Joyner cover)
  6. Falling Out of Love at This Volume
  7. Spring Cleaning
  8. If the Brakeman Turns My Way
  9. Mariana Trench
  10. Neely O’Hara
  11. Poison Oak
  12. Tilt‐A‐Whirl
  13. Haile Selassie
  14. First Day of My Life
  15. Another Travelin’ Song
  16. Easy/Lucky/Free


  1. An Attempt to Tip the Scales
  2. I Believe in Symmetry
  3. One for You, One for Me

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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