Despite an unrelenting heat wave and severe thunderstorms throughout much of New Jersey on Sunday July 21, White Eagle Hall was packed to capacity with a sold out crowd. Conor Oberst hit NJ for his fifth show in an eleven-city headlining tour. This solo jaunt disrupts Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers’ Better Home Oblivion Community Center tour.
New York based musician and visual artist, Joanna Sternberg, kicked things off with a collection of captivating songs. With a crystal clear voice, gorgeous melodies, and a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, she quickly owned the crowd. By the time her performance of “Drifting On A Cloud (The Zoloft Song)” began, I found myself totally smitten with Sternberg.
Oberst and his band then took the lava lamp lit stage by storm. Sticking with the same set list that they performed the first four nights of the tour, the band treated fans to songs from nearly every corner of Oberst’s expansive catalog. Two Bright Eyes’ songs, “I Won’t Ever Be Happy Again” and “The Trees Get Wheeled Away,” opened the show to thunderous approval from the crowd.
After a quick greeting, the band tore into “Hundreds Of Ways,” which had everyone dancing along. A few notes into “Motion Sickness,” Oberst’s self-proclaimed “weird old song,” brought the devastatingly complex emotions of my own teenage heart rushing back to me before they were quickly swept away again in the haze of “Time Forgot.”
Oberst moved to the piano where he introduced “Salutations” as both a “title track” and “tight track.” The crowd later sang along to Bright Eyes’ spirited “Bowl of Oranges.”
“Empty Hotel By The Sea” was followed by two Bright Eyes’ songs, the otherworldly “No One Would Riot For Less,” and the incredibly fun “Blue Angels Air Show.” Fans ate up the quirky “Desert Island Questionnaire” before finally reaching for their phones to capture Oberst’s heartbreaking and dizzyingly beautiful performance of “Tachycardia.”
Conor Oberst, July 21, 2019, White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, NJThe epic show closed with a nod to the East Coast. “I lived in New York City for thirteen fucking years,” Oberst proclaimed as he launched into his first attempt of “Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out.” Screwing up the lyrics, Oberst shouted, “I fucked up. Let’s just start again. It’s alright. It’s family stuff.” For the encore, the band paid tribute to a friend with “If You See Me Getting Smaller” by Waylon Jennings. “If The Brakeman Turns My Way” held the middle spot of the encore before Joanna Sternberg returned to the stage to join the band for the last song of the night: “Napalm.”