Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007

Bright Eyes w/ Simon Joyner and Capgun Coup

By Evan Rytlewski
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Bright Eyes' grand return to the Pabst was a little anticlimactic, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. Last time Milwaukee saw young Mr. Oberst, he was being dragged off stage by an exasperated handler, following a clusterfuck finale filled with forgotten lyrics, drunken ramblings and persistent stage dive attempts.

The sloppy end was particularly spectacular given how formal the rest of that concert had been: Oberst took the stage in a clean, white suit, backed by a sprawling band, also dressed in white, a seated string section and a projected visual accompaniment.

If anything, last night's show would have been the more appropriate setting for rowdiness. Oberst had stripped down his ever-changing touring line-up to just the essentials (a bassist, a drummer, a keyboardist and a guitarist, who happened to be A-list slinger David Rawlings) and the dress code was indie casual. Having already toured behind his new Cassadaga, the set list was career-spanning grab bag, heavy on Oberst's louder, more charged material, but the performances were clean and professional.

Perhaps the contents of Oberst's red cup weren't quite as potent this time around, or perhaps they just didn't have time to kick in (at just under an hour and 15 minutes, his headlining set was shorter than the typical Rob Schneider movie), but Oberst stayed pretty level. Even a pair of venomous encore numbers seemed pretty orderly, with the band not so much trashing their instruments as gently tussling them (although when Oberst pushed his amplifier and guitar across stage, it did send a fallen microphone stand lunging toward the face of a poor girl in the front row—she seemed to be alright, thankfully). But even if this show wasn't quite the YouTube-ready spectacle the last one was, the band sounded great, and that's what really matters, right? Right?

The two openers were sort of a ying and a yang of the Nebraska scene. Numbingly dull singer-songwriter Simon Joyner has a voice like moss and quickly lost the crowd's attention—which is saying something, since usually Pabst Theater audiences will politely sit through anything. "Conor, where are you?" one woman in the balcony moaned after Joyner finished singing a particularly bland, flat song.

The preceding opening band, on the other hand, impressed the hell out of me. Their name was utterly indecipherable—Captain Goo? Cat Fondue? I learned later it was Capgun Coup, and, as it turns out, they've just been signed to Oberst's Team Love label. It's not too much of a surprise that Oberst has taken such a liking to them, since they sound a lot like he used to before he tried to reinvent himself as a serious singer-songwriter: spazzy, poppy, catchy, wonderful. With all the melodic screams and hooky keyboards, they were like a young D.C. punk band doing an entire set of Clean covers.

I picked up a copy of their debut album, Brought To You By Nebraskafish, and although it doesn't capture the raw fun of their live show, it suggests that if the band can team up with a real producer and maybe weed out some of their less immediate songs, their next disc could be a real killer.

In the meantime, Milwaukeeans will have another chance to see Capgun Coup in their element this Thursday when they play a set at the Borg Ward Collective. I think I'm going to go; I was that impressed by them.

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