Thursday, November 10, 2011
Bright Eyes - The Hi Fi
So you probably don't remember, but I posted a video a while back of the first single from the new Bright Eyes record, The People's Key, called Shell Games. I also wrote a note underneath, and it went along the lines of "Oh my gosh, if this means they're going to be touring I might die."
Well, I am now speaking to you from beyond the grave through this magical thing we call the internet, all because my wish came true; they are touring Australia, last night I went along, and I died.*
But I thought I would send out this last message before I depart into the next life, where every day will be a Bright Eyes concert, except I will always have the perfect view and that when he reaches his hand out to crowd, I will be close enough to touch it.
I remember very clearly the first time I heard Bright Eyes; I was in high school, I was going to turn sixteen that year so it would have been 2004. It was a beautiful sunny day, close to the beginning of summer, and a dear friend of mine, who had just gotten one of the very first iPods I had ever seen, said to me "I found a band I think you might like." He handed this big white brick with a black and white screen over to me, and said, "His voice takes a little while to get used to, but the songs are amazing." I trusted him completely, because this was a time before podcasts and music blogs and even triple j, where he was my only musical yard stick; if he found something and liked it, more often than not I was bound to like it too, and then beg him to download the album for me, because his parents let him use whatever file sharing program was around at the time (mine did not). There were only two Bright Eyes songs on there, Something Vague and A Perfect Sonnet, which he played to me in succession, watching intently for my reaction. At first I remember thinking 'This guy sounds like he's going to burst into tears at any moment." But a few weeks later, he sent them to my computer via MSN messenger, and I listened to them again. And again. And again. Soon I was begging him to send me whatever Bright Eyes songs he could find, and so my obsession began.
Last night I realized that so many of my teenage memories, like the one I just wrote down, are tied to Bright Eyes songs.
So when Conor and his band walked on stage, with his hair all in his face and a hoodie underneath his button up shirt, and they started up the opening of 'Four Winds', not only was I overcome by the power of that song, but by the memory of singing along with the aforementioned dear friend, having to fight to get it played at his own birthday party, and how it made us want to look up the Whore of Babylon on Wikipedia.
For pretty much the whole set, I felt like I was being emotionally assaulted, but in a good way; each song was tied to an old memory that resurfaced like a friendly ghost, taking my hand and taking me back to times and places I hadn't thought about in a while, but still hadn't forgotten. Something Vague took me back to that exact moment in 2004, while 'The Calendar Hung Itself ' led me to a family road trip where I, seventeen and surely, had that song on repeat as we drove through fields upon fields of yellow grass. 'Lover I Don't Have to Love' nursed a friend's broken heart, and Road to Joy was just for me, for all those times I'd needed to be picked up off the ground.
In terms of the performance, it was loud, but not obnoxiously so, it was intense, and it was emotional. At some points Conor seemed like he was not quite there, but the part of him that was in the room with us gave us everything, throwing himself about and screaming his lyrics into the microphone; it was the perfect lesson in rocking out and still sounding FUCKING AMAZING (see Faker on how not to do this.)
And although I loved the intensity, my favourite moments were all quiet ones; I don't think I will ever forget how the room went dead silent for the whole opening of 'Poison Oak', until the song swelled to its climax and everybody lost their shit. The opening line of 'Landlocked Blues', and the first notes of 'Lua' on the acoustic guitar with also be burnt into my brain forever.
And, sure, his voice still shakes when he sings, but that's just one of the many things I love about him, because all the emotion that fueled the song when he wrote it is right there for you to hear.
Highlights (there's quite a lot of them): Something Vague, Landlocked Blues, Lua, Lover I Don't Have to Love (!!!), The Calendar Hung Itself (!!!!!), Road To Joy, Take It Easy (Love Nothing), Another Travllin' Song, Jejune Stars, Four Winds and Shell Games. And all the rest were damn good as well.
*This is not strictly true, I have just been placed in a Bright Eyes induced coma, and I expect to come out of it in a few days.