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- Posted on Nov 9th 2009 10:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
More likely, though, it was the sheer number of songs the supergroup's members -- Bright Eyes mastermind Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, acclaimed solo artist M. Ward and indie producer extraordinaire Mike Mogis -- have at their disposal.
"Thanks a lot, New York -- we're only halfway done," Oberst said after about 35 songs, leading fans to momentarily wonder whether he was being serious.
He wasn't, though the Monsters did burn through more than 40 tunes in just under three hours. In addition to playing the bulk of its recently released self-titled debut, the group dipped into the catalog of each individual member. That meant plenty of Oberst's nervous and wordy confessional rave-ups, Ward's plaintive-troubadour gems and James' ethereal cosmic-Americana jams.
Looking sharp in suits and ties, the Monsters started the evening with 'Say Please,' one of the numbers they wrote together. James plucked a bass and Oberst strummed guitar, and by the next song, 'The Right Place,' Oberst had moved over to keyboards and James had strapped on a six-string. Such shuffling continued for the duration of the show, as the musicians took turns on piano and various stringed instruments.
On 'Dear God (Sincerely, M.O.F.),' each Monster sang a verse, demonstrating his unique voice. James went first, hitting pillow-soft high notes, followed by Ward, who infused his lines with gritty back-roads soul. Oberst, perhaps the least technically proficient vocalist of the bunch, strained and yelped, relying more on passion and personality than virtuosity.
If all five musicians seemed to be having a good time, Oberst was positively ecstatic. Toward the end of 'Another Travelin' Song,' a Bright Eyes tune the Monsters made the centerpiece of their encore, the Omaha native climbed atop the bass drum and kicked madly at the snare, helping hard-hitting drummer Will Johnson give the kit an even more vigorous pummeling.
The Monsters finished with 'His Master's Voice,' a gentle selection that also ends their album. It was a sensible way to close: a cool-down after their own private New York City Marathon.