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The Sad Prodigal Son Returns: Bright Eyes Bring Drunken Tears & Nostalgia to Palace

Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Bright Eyes kicked off their Spring tour – the first after a nine-year hiatus – at St. Paul’s Palace Theatre Wednesday evening. It’s been a long time coming. After an especially rough couple years, our favorite sad songwriter was welcomed back with open arms. Conor Oberst and crew ripped a high-energy set filled with newer, grittier material and, of course, some familiar favorites.

Photo by Kathleen Ambre

Oberst invited us into his inner world of nihilism and catastrophe on an intimate scale – a weirdly comforting outlet for those still piecing life together post-pandemic. For many, this show was truly a “blast from the past,” bringing a messy mix of emotions to surface.

Backed by an orchestra section, I was blown away by their shape-shifting, collage-like arrangements. The instrumentation provided an emotional primer to an already sentimental crowd.

Photo by Kathleen Ambre
Photo by Kathleen Ambre

While dancing with his bandmates and mumbling tipsy shout-outs to fans, Oberst was loose on stage. While I couldn’t make out all the gracious mumbles, he immediately made his love known for both Minneapolis and Saint Paul, trying not to play favorites.

“Thank you so much you beautiful humans. Is there like a line of demarcation? Yeah, I’ll sleep there tonight, right in between. My torso in Saint Paul, legs in Minneapolis.”

Conor Oberst
Photo by Kathleen Ambre

This highly-anticipated, 13-date run is supporting their latest album, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was. Talk about a poetic title for a record produced in the year 2020. Also, Bright Eyes partnered with Plus1 this time around, allocating $1 from every ticket sold to the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles.

Pretty damn cool.

The new album, in some ways, is about returning home and assessing the damage – recognizing what is missing and also embracing the strange and unexpected things that remain.

Photo by Kathleen Ambre

From early 2000s “I Believe in Symmetry” and “First Day of my Life” to more recent “Just Once in the World” the performance in a lot of ways brought that theme to light, fittingly paired with gratitude and battered optimism.

The encore, “One For You, One For Me” embodied that call for love and peace.

“Alright you precious, beautiful damn loves I love you so much… so I sing a lot of songs, so many fucking words. Blah, blah, blah. Oh, this again. I’m scared of dying. Who wants to die? I’m scared of dying. You? Yeah, me too. So, this song is actual message that we came here to give you and we love you.”

Conor Oberst

One for you, one for me. Thank you, Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes for sharing your night with us.

Written by Kathleen Ambre

Photographer | Designer | Writer | Chronic Creator

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