Cafe De La Danse, Paris
Saturday 2nd February 2013
A darling of the indie/folk/singer-songwriter scene for a number of years now, Conor Oberst brings his solo show to a lovely and intimate venue in Paris! Sounds like the perfect evening! LTW’s Tom Carter was there.
Café De La Danse, in Paris’s Bastille quarter, the equivalent it seems of Brooklyn or Shoreditch. A warehouse in a side street, playing host tonigh to Conor Oberst of, principally, Bright Eyes, performing on his solo European tour. Conor has proved himself to be one of the most versatile songwriters of his or any generation and seems to deviate between the persona of the delicate alt-indie Americana songwriter he’s best known for and a global political flag bearer for the left and super group showman. His last Bright Eyes tour visited larger venues than this in the same cities touring the sci-fi emo album ‘The People’s Key’ which tonight Oberst will admit, “People didn’t get…maybe in the future”. On that visit, Conor Oberst strutted around stage like a sleepy Mick Jagger, far removing himself from the fragile incarnations most people imagined. Tonight he stays somewhere in between.
It has to be said, even from those who might reduce him to any of the above caricatures that Conor Oberst is a fantastic songwriter, I’d say it’s pretty much undeniable that he is one of the most skilled lyricists today anywhere in the world. Nothing in or out of the charts has the guts that his songs have and album on album they get stronger, sometimes more abstract but never less inventive. His melodic power or general relevance is something you can debate and whether or not he touches a nerve is down to personal taste.
For me, tonight, he is unimprovable. Playing a greatest hits set that covers most of his career, including ‘Lua’, ‘First Day Of My Life’ and ‘Shell Games’ which everyone here will have heard, Conor Oberst uses virtually every tool he has as a songwriter. Playing with a marimba/guitarist, who adds several dimensions to every song played tonight and a violinist and vocalist whose involvement brings mostly the highlights of the set, the atmosphere and sound transform with every song. He plays two new songs, one about Insomnia (which is dedicates to a girl with narcolepsy in the crowd) and one about a friend who has just had a child. Both songs on their first listen have something quintessentially Conor Oberst about them. A proficiency which I think is only available to the best handful of songwriters.
The venue would probably be described as an arts centre in the UK, recently done up you’d imagine, with excellent sound and good vantage points from everyone in the seats and the crowds perched wherever possible on the floor below. Apart from a few ‘pardons’ from people squeezing through the bodies, almost every word spoke amongst the paying public is English; students, ex-pats and day trippers, mostly American or English.
There’s no note to end this on except to say it was a fantastic gig, and as people have been saying about him since he was a teenager, if Conor Oberst was 20 years older, he’d be much more appreciated than he is. I feel genuinely lucky that he’s got so many years and songs ahead of him and seeing him in a small venue of this size with just a few stalls and instruments was a great thing to witness.
Check out Conor Oberst and his many incarnations on his official website.
Words by Tom Carter. More writing by Tom on Louder Than War can be found here.