Wednesday's show at Crossroads KC showcased a songwriter now in his mid-30s who has been performing and recording since his early teens and a band led by two brothers in their 20s who vividly revive the sounds of '70s folk and rock. Sometimes youth defies itself.
The headliner was Conor Oberst, who also records as Bright Eyes and sometimes records and tours with his band the Mystic Valley Band. This evening, for his set that exceeded two hours, he was backed by the band Dawes, who also opened the show with a one-hour set. Let's hope they were compensated well for their double duty and for adding so much muscle and soul to Oberst's songs.
Dawes is led by brothers Taylor Goldsmith on guitars and vocals and Griffin Goldsmith on drums and vocals. Much of their sound is an evocative re-creation of the music that emerged in the early 1970s, especially in southern California.
Taylor Goldsmith sings in a voice that can heavily resemble Jackson Browne's in his "For Everyman" days, which only deepens the music's attachment to that era. Resemblances to Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Crosby Stills and Nash emerged throughout a performance that was well-received by a crowd that appeared to be familiar with most of the setlist, especially its signature song, "When My Time Comes."
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With Dawes in tow, Oberst arrived on stage wearing a black, wide-brimmed hat, looking a bit like Bob Dylan on the cover of his "Desire" album. It was an appropriate allusion for what would follow.
In May, he released "Upside Down Mountain," his sixth solo album. He opened with two of its tracks, "Time Forgot" and "Zigzagging Toward the Light." The setlist would bounce around his entire catalog, including a few Bright Eyes songs, like "We Are Nowhere and It's Now" and "Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)," plus songs from his Mystic Valley albums, like "Get-Well-Card" and "I Got the Reason, No. 2."
With Dawes drenching them in guitars, Hammond B3 and harmonies, all of Oberst's songs sounded of the same roots and eras and he and Dawes sounded like a well-honed band, even at times like the Band, even Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue
Since he started making records as a teenager in the early 1990s, Oberst has been known for his quavery warble of a voice and the way it delivers his inimitable lyrics, which are colorful, emotive, wrought with detail and cliche-free. Now 34 years old, his voice has matured but hasn't lost its resonance or its ability to express sentiments like "Life's a roller-coaster / Keep your arms inside" and "I wanna be your bootlegger / Wanna mix you up something strange / Braid your hair like a sister / Maim you like a hurricane."
Oberst strummed an acoustic guitar throughout the show, at times demonstratively as he led Dawes into several bristling instrumental interludes. For a few songs, including "I Got the Reason, No. 2," he played piano. All night he kept the vibe cooking between himself and the band and the crowd of about 600.
The show ended with an encore that included "Cape Canaveral," from his "Conor Oberst" album, and a rousing rendition of "Another Travelin' Song," a Bright Eyes tune. Both were unbridled, free-wheeling and organic evocations of the sounds and spirits of another era.
Dawes: From A Window; Time Spent In Los Angeles; Fire Away; Things Happen; Most People; Someone Will; When My Time Comes; I Can’t Think About It Now; A Little Bit of Everything.
Conor Oberst: Time Forgot; Zigzagging Toward the Light; We Are Nowhere and It’s Now; Get-Well-Cards; Old Soul Song (For the New World Order); Artifact #1; Hit the Switch; No One Would Riot For Less; Soul Singer in a Session Band; Hundreds of Ways; Firewall; Desert Island Questionnaire; If The Brakeman Turns My Way; I Got the Reason,No. 2; You Are Your Mother’s Child; Encore: Cape Canaveral; Another Traveling Song