Published Jul 07, 2012A year ago, when Conor Oberst retired his Bright Eyes band, their Ottawa Folk Festival appearance saw the core three-piece in typical form: outspoken, expressive and emotional. With his Main Stage performance at this year's Ottawa Bluesfest, Oberst was eager to show just how fully developed his musical tastes have become.
Playing with a small quartet, featuring fellow Mystic Valley Band members Macey Taylor and Jason Boesel, alongside longtime Gillian Welch guitarist David Rawlings, Oberst faced the early evening crowd in full troubadour mode. Playing a mix of Bright Eyes and solo material, it became apparent that the angst-ridden Oberst of yore was gone, replaced by a staid and esteemed member of the alt-folk community.
As last year's Ottawa appearance found Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello joining the band for an onstage jam, Oberst surprised the large but scattered crowd by welcoming Welch (who was not on the Bluesfest bill) for a rendition of her song "Wrecking Ball," along with Bright Eyes' "Classic Cars" and "Lua." Seeing Oberst sharing the stage with the soon-to-be-legend Welch, perfectly illustrated the musical path this still-young musician is determined to blaze.