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Bright Eyes With the LA Phil - Hollywood Bowl - 9/29/07

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The pairing of rock and classical orchestration has become an interesting and exciting trend in the past few years. The Los Angeles Philharmonic has become a "backup" band of sorts to the likes of Air, Belle and Sebastian, the Decemberists and now Bright Eyes, providing a unique, one of a kind listening experience that sometimes seems a perfect fit while other times a bit off. The Bright Eyes experience was my first in this series and after seeing him earlier this year I was excited to see what he would bring from his vast catalog to this show.


By now you have heard the praises of Conor Oberst, some going as far as to call him the "Bob Dylan of our generation." In some regards they are correct, there may not be another songwriter as young and as gifted as Oberst, but time will be his true test. Saturday night Oberst brought Bright Eyes into the vast expanse of the Hollywood Bowl to play a one night show with the LA Phil. And one thing is for sure, he is an amazingly talented musician.

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His newest release, Cassadaga, already featured orchestral arrangements so the pairing did not feel too much of a stretch. With only a few tweaks, these songs sounded rich and full, with every crescendo and climax emboldened by the Phil's stunning brass section and each somber and sweet moment enlightened by it's strings. What I was really excited about was what he would do with his older pieces, I was both completely enthralled and at the same time underwhelmed. The opener, "Don't Know When But A Day's Gonna Come" set the bar high as the 6+min long song builds to an incredible climax, which on the album Lifted... sounded big and bold but with the Phil was taken to a completely different level.


One of the worries I had was that the Phil would overpower Conor and what makes Bright Eyes unique as a band would be lost in the wall of sound. Luckily this was not the case and infact I was surprised at times how subtle the orchestration was. There were just hints of strings at times, sometimes it was just an extra percussion player and then sometimes it was the full orchestra. "Lover I Don't Have To Love," "Bowl of Oranges," "No One Would Riot For Less," were all standouts.


There were so many songs Oberst could have brought out and while the setlist was satisfying I left wanting more. The set was over almost as soon as it started, maybe that is a testament to the music as well. Overall it was an amazing display of musicianship on both Bright Eyes end as a band and from the always amazing Philharmonic.