April 12, 2011
@ The Fox Theater, Oakland
Better than: Whatever shit Mike Huckabee listens to.
If Bob Dylan sang the universal in such exquisite poetry that it became personal, Conor Oberst shouts the personal so loudly that it can't help but seem universal. No matter what his mid-'00s proponents claimed, Oberst is no Dylan — there isn't going to be another Dylan — but last night at the Fox, the Bright Eyes frontman made a case for himself as the singer best able to cram all the worldly impatience and indulgent vanity of his generation into song.
None of which is to say that the show was perfect, or great — but it was good. (Dylan wasn't always great either; he's become such a revered figure that it's easy to forget he's a gifted madman, a selfish obsessive with a huge talent for songwriting who spent a great part of his career making shitty music — a desert some say Oberst is now wandering into.) But beyond the obvious surface-level similarities to Dylan (the affected troubadourian image, the Guthrian vocal phrasing, the political agitation), Oberst succeeds, like his predecessor, in erasing the line between intimacy and universality, in bringing the world into his bedroom and then asking it, like he would ask a friend, why are you so fucked up?