- Posted on Mar 19th 2011 12:30PM by Benjy Eisen
Joseph Llanes for AOL
"This is fun," ring leader Conor Oberst told the audience, many of whom waited in line for hours on the street, vying for a coveted spot inside. "You guys ever been to the haunted mansion at Disney Land?" he asked, eerily summing up the chandelier-adorned setting. "Very soon these walls will start stretching -- into the stratosphere."
And, metaphorically, perhaps they did. Backed by a six-piece multi-instrumental band -- aka Bright Eyes -- Oberst showcased new material from the group's brand new album, 'The People's Key.' That much was expected -- but he also reached into Bright Eyes' revered canon for such catalog classics as 'Bowl of Oranges' and 'Poison Oak.'
Tellingly, the new songs drew as much applause as the old ones. And while Bright Eyes doesn't necessarily seem like the kind of group to come to SXSW just to play the part of some kind of product-promoting machine, Oberst ingeniously managed to do just that while simultaneously rising above it all.
"This next song is about trying to not become a cynical as----e," he said, sincerely, in introducing 'Beginner's Mind' -- a track from the new release. "Tall order, I guess. But SXSW is a good place to explore that, because you have the greenest of the green and the [most poisoned] of the poisoned, walking next to each other."
True that. And yet, Bright Eyes, somehow, was able to transcend both of those categories, opting instead to deliver the same blood-and-guts performance that made them famous to begin with. For those fortunate enough to make it inside, it was worth the wait, indeed.
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