Photography: Mike Sheerin /

Conor Oberst

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  • Big Thief

After a long, self-imposed hiatus from this venue, tonight I am breaking my duck for a man who I met when I was twelve and who guided me through the tantrums, broken hearts and awkward moments of my teenage years; tonight I am here to see CONOR OBERST.

The O2 is half full, and as more and more people begin to filter into the building, tonight’s support act, BIG THIEF take to the stage. The group quietly shuffle in front of their instruments as if not sure where to place themselves or what to do under the bright lights and expectation of this evenings event, but the moment the first chord is strummed they transform. Big Thief are a group full of quiet gusto, their songs are like forgotten dreams that catch you off guard and take you places that make your stomach bubble and fingers tingle. The band perform with the delicacy of a feather but the tenacity of a tiger. Big Thief are a band to keep an eye on and the perfect hors d’oeuvres for this evening’s proceedings.

My feet start to get sticky as the lights go down for a second time. The Academy is now packed and there is a nervous sense of anticipation that lingers in the air. “Which Oberst will we get?” I hear people mutter. Will the warm nostalgic bubble that surrounds this evening’s proceedings be burst? Will we all be disappointed and go home short-changed? We need not have worried one bit. Conor Oberst swaggers onstage with confidence and purpose. He sings with a gruff tenderness that consumes the room and settles any early nerves. His full band amplifies the rock and roll edge that has always lay under the acoustic guitar strums of his work. There is real energy to Oberst this evening, something that has often been lacking in his stage presence of recent years. It feels that, as the world gets more chaotic and helpless, Conor gets stronger and more invigorated, feeding off the tragedy and uncertainty of modern day politics. Oberst treats us to a wealth of music ranging from current offerings to old classics. Bright Eyes songs like First Day Of My Life silence the room and evoke gasps and shudders. Newer tracks like Napalm pull us back to the future with strength, anger and blistering fury.

As I count the lack of change in my wallet and eventually peel my shoes from the floor, I am happy. I am happy because I have remembered the past with a man that I have always admired but I am also happy about the future. Conor Oberst is an enigma who many can find overly sentimental or a little twee but it is undisputable that he is an artist who deals in honesty and wears his busted broken heart on his tatty flannel sleeve.

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