The minimalist stage was set for a solo evening with Conor Oberst. Conor switched between piano and guitar while the harmonica remained a constant. His songwriting took center stage at Carnegie Hall while the instruments like jewels glimmered around his poignant lyrics. In the performance's first half, he played his new album, Ruminations, in full. Having purchased Ruminations recently, I was familiar with the raw pared-down recordings. The accompaniment of Miwi La Lupa on bass and the acoustics at the Carnegie created a dichotomy giving the magnitude of the song while hearing private intimate songs become very public.
In the second half, he played older songs curated for content. They were familiar and, with the advent of time, took on new meaning as history unfolded post-election.
Lenders in the Temple, Cape Canaveral, White Shoes, Passing Through (Leonard Cohen cover and dedication), Ladder Song, Lua, The Big Picture, and At the Bottom of Everything.
Whether the material was old or new, each word sung echoed through the majesty of the hall. Speaking to me as they always have for the last 16 years. Conor has become a seasoned performer, his lyrics carry levels of imagery and inference like no other. His phrasing and delivery create the winning dynamic as chosen words are highlighted for effect or a consonant is pronounced with clarity.
The audience at Carnegie Hall cheered from the top tiers every time Conor sang the line /victory is sweet, even deep in the cheap seats / from the song “Cape Canaveral.” The sound experience was the same regardless of the seat's price or location. The only seat I would have really liked was Sean Foley’s (harmonica cleaner) next to the grand piano with a fishbowl full of water.