Concert Review: Low, Bright Eyes, Kevin Chasek (April 6, 2001, Lincoln, NE)

This was by far one of the more interesting weeks, and I see this show as a sort of balm on my spirit. It’s not that the week was extraordinarily bad, but one certain event earlier in the week had cast its shadow over the following days. But as I’ve found, there’s nothing like a good concert to deliver you from the blues, and this one was no exception. Unfortunately, it could’ve been so much more than it was.

The show was supposed to start at 10:00, but Bright Eyes’ soundcheck took a little longer than expected. (Do soundchecks ever not take a long time?) Anyways, Kevin Chasek finally took the stage and the show was under way. Chasek is a Lincoln singer/songwriter (who has also played in a number of Lincoln bands, such as Luck of Aleia), and his solo acoustic performance set the mood.

Comparisons to Bright Eyes would be too lazy, I think. I was actually reminded more of Patrick Phelan, Richard Youngs, and maybe even Damien Jurado’s more dour moments.

Unfortunately, Chasek’s set was plagued by the incessant noise of the crowd, which would become a common theme of the evening. It must’ve been the AFI show that took place a few hours earlier. Chasek’s music often seemed to combat the crowd, which is a shame, because I found his stark, melancholy music absolutely riveting at times.

Bright Eyes is a band you either seem to love, or love to hate. It was obvious from the crowd that the former was the case. I’ve never gotten caught up in the Bright Eyes craze that seems to sweep through Nebraska (the band has its roots in Omaha, so maybe it’s a local pride thing). I was looking forward to the performance, just because I’d heard a lot of good things about previous live shows, and I was pretty impressed.

Conor Oberst (who, for all intents and purposes, is Bright Eyes) seemed to hold the crowd enthralled with his singer-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown intensity. At many times throughout the show, the band switched instruments — keyboards, guitars, vibes, pedal steel, accordion, etc — again adding to the variety and depth of the performance. The show ended in true rock and roll fashion, with Oberst knocking over microphones and throwing cups of water into the audience. It was certainly entertaining, but somewhat at odds with the intimately neurotic songs that had come beforehand.

Low took the stage with little ceremony, and proceeded to do what they do best, play solemn somber music that holds you captivated, sets your teeth on edge, and lulls you to sleep… and all at the same time. But the crowd got fairly loud early into their set; if it was rude during Chasek’s performance, it was doubly so now. The band seemed pretty irritated with the catcalls and stupid hollering from jackasses throughout the crowd; if they weren’t, my friends and I were. I was half-expecting bassist Zak Sally, who seems to be in a perpetual sulk, to take matters in his own hands.

The band was plagued by little mishaps here and there (the e-bow cutting out, pedal malfunctions, etc.). This might just be the Low fan inside me, but a less-than-perfect set by Low is still a beautiful, harrowing experience. The set seemed to consist mainly of songs from their latest, Things We Lost In The Fire. Their performances of “Dinosaur Act” and “Sunflowers” were amazing. As they did the last time I saw them, Low closed their set with “In Metal,” an ode to Alan and Mimi Parker’s new child, Hollis. The final moments, when Sally’s soaring bass comes zooming in, blew me away as much now as they did when I saw them several months ago.

The dramatic high point of the evening was during “Lust,” when at the song’s height, Alan Sparhawk accidentally stepped on his pedal and cut out his guitar. And then, in true rawk fashion, threw his guitar onto the ground. The previous times I’d seen Low, the band seemed detached from the performance. Not this time… I actually saw Low pissed off, and it made for a very interesting performance. But somehow, I know that if it hadn’t been for all of the idiots in the crowd, it would’ve been so much better.

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