red lights


Conor & Co. Keep Things Smooth

Bright Eyes / M. Ward / Jim James
The Vic
Chicago, IL
Feb. 21, 2004

M. Ward
M. Ward
Conor Oberst

Story and Photos By Karen Bondowski'd probably think that a whole evening of acoustic music would all start to sound the same, right? Well... If you said yes, then you couldn't be more wrong. Tonight there were four beautiful, artists at work... Conor Oberst & Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes), M. Ward and Jim James (My Morning Jacket) all commanded the Vic's stage with their quiet intensity. Ready to take their music to a place somewhere deep inside.
Jim James After a long wait in the sold out, well lit hall, the lights went down and the stage's blue and red rays slowly intertwined together silhouetting a lone figure. Stepping into a shaft of light stood M. Ward with his acoustic guitar closely guarded at his side. He started off with, "Helicopter." His voice raspy, yet pleasant and very soothing, sparked the rhythmic chords into a subdued clarity. On David Bowie's "Let's Dance" M. Ward made the chorus his own by peppering the lines with a deeper than usual delivery. He pulled this one off with flying colors. As M. Ward sung the opening verse of "Vincent O'Brien," Conor Oberst picked up the guitar and casually joined in. He added his signature voice to the expressive harmonies. M. Ward and company took a fresh approach to "Flesh and Blood" and kept the fires burning with "Girl of the North Country."
Bright Eyes It was an evening of no headliners. Just musicians taking turns joining each other on stage to create some memorable music.
Jim James slowly hiked up to the mic, in his beat up socks and his hair tightly held in place, as he aggressively ran through a set that was pockmarked with a voice that bled with emotion as it begged for forgiveness. The chords were greased with hard earned sweat. Standing mostly still throughout his set, James let his music move the moment.
With Conor, in his dull jeans and warm sweater, he took to center stage and started off his set with the engrossing "Train Underwater." Everyone hit the stage to accompany him, as he sang about a loved one and getting lost in New York. Mike Mogis, caressed the pedal steel, as M. Ward bowed down to engage the audience and join in on the harmonies. Oberst's voice hits it's emotional high towards the end. It was a great moment and couldn't have been any sweeter. Oberst then stepped up to the mic to play his next song titled, "Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man" a sad tale about love and denial. Bright Eyes continued with "Waste of Paint" it could have be 10 minutes longer (on top of its 10 already), even 20... and it would still go on just as strong and keep you on the balls of your feet. Other Bright Eyes highlights were "One Foot in Front of the Other," "Lua," and "We Are Nowhere and It's Now."
They then lit into Elvis' "You Were Always on My Mind." Conor sat back and relaxed on the chair with his bass in his lap, as Jim James took the lead vocals and M. Ward played the keyboard and Mogis on the Pedal Steel. It had such a strong pull, that it was enough to make you feel as if you've been lost at sea for weeks, realizing that the solitude is better then being rescued. The slow, soothing melody "Girl From the North Country" burst with M. Ward's passion and vision. . . Mogis added his cooingly "country riffs," which gave the song more body with its distinct warblings. Ward continued to sing in an honestly emotional tone. Oberst stepped in for the next part as all three lit the candle from both ends.
The crowd held their applause, until the final note bled it's last drop. Their patience was completely justified.

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