Conor Oberst filled the Madrid Theater on Friday night, giving a crowd of about 750 a hearty taste of music new and old.
Oberst is touring on an album he has yet to release, but also performing many songs he’s already recorded. On March 17, he will release “Salutations,” his eighth solo studio album. It is a companion to “Ruminations,” released in 2016, which Oberst recorded solo — piano, guitar, harmonica and vocals. “Salutations” is a full-band version of “Ruminations,” recorded with the Felice Brothers, plus seven additional songs. Friday night, backed by the Felice Brothers, who opened the show, he played 10 “Salutations” songs, five of which also appear on its predecessor.
The Felice Brothers, adding fiddle and accordion to the arrangements, gave his songs a country/rootsy vibe that sounds like a mix of the Band and Bob Dylan in his “Blood on the Tracks” and “Basement Tapes” days. Oberst hopped from guitar to piano and added harmonica to several tracks, including “Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch).” A few times, his piano work evoked the styles of Warren Zevon (“Too Late to Fixate”) and Elton John.
Oberst was on-point and business-like throughout the set, which lasted nearly 80 minutes. Though he’s known for being outspoken, especially in matters political, he had little to say to the crowd, which was attentive and appreciative all night, despite hearing a lot of new material.
He gave them a few Bright Eyes songs, one of them early: “Four Winds,” the title track to an EP released 10 years ago this month and made even better-known by a Killers’ cover version. Its alt-country vibe meshed seamlessly with the “Salutations” material.
Later, he delivered “Poison Oak” and, during the encore, a vibrant version of “Train Under Water,” a track from the stellar “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” album that aroused the loudest ovation of the evening.
Several of the new songs stood out, like “Overdue,” a jangly Americana anthem, and “Anytime Soon, a bouncy indie-rock jam. He opened the encore with a new song, “No One Is Going to Change,” a piano ballad fraught with emotional lyrics, and closed it with an inflammatory rendition of “Napalm,” which included a stampede of guitars. It brought to a smoldering close an evening that sent a big crowd on its way but wanting more, old songs or new.
Afterthought; Four Winds; Too Late to Fixate; Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out; Overdue; Southern State; Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch); Time Forgot; Empty Hotel by the Sea; Anytime Soon; Counting Sheep; Salutations; Gossamer Thin; Poison Oak; A Little Uncanny; No One Is Going to Change; Train Under Water; Napalm.