by Zoë Sommers
The paint was still drying at Allston-Brighton’s massive new venue, Roadrunner, but Bright Eyes and tour opener Christian Lee Hutson made themselves right at home at their Thursday, April 7th show. For better or for worse, the brand-spanking-new speakers were put to full use for both acts.
Hutson opened the show, playing some songs off of his newest album, Quitters, which released April 1st. A self-proclaimed Bright Eyes fan (he used to skip P.E. to listen to Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and Cassadega on a pink iPod), Hutson brought his geeky charisma to the stage with his signature turtleneck tucked into high-waisted blue jeans. As he switched between electric and acoustic guitar, Hutson was the guy that you just have to see live. Quitters has already received a ton of critical acclaim – including a 7.5 Pitchfork rating – on account of Hutson’s lyrics, but his musical talent translates much better in person. Despite being joined only by a bass player and drummer, Hutson successfully filled the cavernous Roadrunner and departed after sharing some potential band names. The Violent Thems, or Boys to Them, anyone?
Christian Lee Hutson. Photo: Henry Shifrin
Bright Eyes on the other hand — back in 2020 after an almost decade-long hiatus — is bigger and better than ever. The stage was full, and so was the sound. A small horn and string section accompanied the usual suspects, so the touring band punched in with at least 13 musicians playing in any given song.
Frontman Conor Oberst noted that this tour has pretty much been the band’s first chance to play their newest album, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, having released it during the height of the pandemic. While Oberst switched between sips of his Hydro Flask and a paper cup, the band played a mix of new and old songs. “Mariana Trench” and “Stairwell Song” seemed to be the crowd’s favorite songs from the new album. With their heads thrown back and hands stretched to the sky, I watched a small group connect with each song. It was abundantly clear that this is a band that has superfans; Bright Eyes’s music means something important to a lot of people.
Bright Eyes. Photo: Henry Shifrin
About halfway through the show, Oberst launched into a story about his dog and her affinity towards chewing the most expensive thing in whatever room she finds herself in. The storytelling, he said, was encouraged by his tour manager and supposed to make him seem like a nicer, more relatable performer; and hey, it worked.
Crowd-favorite “Poison Oak” from 2005’s I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning was played with more heart and pedal steel guitar than any fan could have dreamed of. As the crowd swayed and belted the lyrics along with Oberst, it was startlingly clear just how connected they all felt with this music.
Photo: Henry Shifrin
Dedicating the last (and longest) track off the most recent album to his ex-wife, Corina, who he “still love[s] very, very, very much,” Oberst and the rest of the band launched into “Comet Song” near the end of the show. It was during this song that the horn and string section really got to shine. After such a momentous set, there’s no way anyone went home feeling unfulfilled. Bright Eyes is back and better than ever.