Reviews

Bright Eyes Played a Full 90-Minute Set at the Fillmore Miami Beach

Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst didn't walk off stage during the band's performance at the Fillmore Miami Beach.
Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst didn't walk off stage during the band's performance at the Fillmore Miami Beach. Photo by Shawn Brackbill
It took a few songs into Bright Eyes' Friday night concert before the crowd gathered at the Fillmore Miami Beach could collectively exhale and enjoy the show. A week earlier in Houston, the indie-rock band made headlines when frontman Conor Oberst abruptly walked offstage after performing only two songs.

Bright Eyes played their next couple of gigs in New Orleans, Charleston, and Orlando without incident. Still, Oberst never explained why he'd abandoned the Houston show, leaving fans to fear the worst on social media, spreading all manner of speculation about the artist's physical and mental health.

At the Miami Beach show, there was no cause for concern. Around 9:15 p.m., an army of backing musicians made their way onstage — 12 members by my count, including three violinists. Then, clad in black, Oberst flashed a peace sign to the crowd as he walked across the stage for a rendition of "Dance and Sing." He looked to be in decent shape, especially as he turned his back and danced while the band jammed.

Oberst sat down at an organ to play the emo "Lover I Don't Have to Love." The tempo was a beat or two faster than the recorded version from 2002. Normally, I would think this was a case of a band keeping a 20-year-old song fresh, but in light of what had happened the week prior, it had me wondering whether he was trying to rush through the set. 

As the song ended, it was a relief to see a stagehand give Oberst a guitar — this show would be longer than Houston's. A few songs later, Oberst put a brace on his left wrist that he uses to fret notes on the guitar and made what seemed like could be an explanation for leaving the stage in Houston. He explained that they played a gig where he was warned that if he moved to a certain portion of the stage where there was no lighting, it would seem like he had disappeared. "I thought that would be cool to just vanish, but then I fell off the stage and fucked up my wrist and hip."

If his wrist was in serious pain, he did an excellent job of hiding it. (Maybe it was adrenaline from a sea of diehard fans cheering him on.)

Whether it was because the concert coincided with a crucial playoff game for the Miami Heat or because people avoided Miami Beach during the Memorial Day weekend, the half-full venue meant a large portion of the Fillmore's seating was curtained off. However, the crowd that did turn out was attentive and enthusiastic — and never more so than when Oberst gave them a solo performance of "Poison Oak" on his acoustic guitar. Cheers became hushed silence and then changed to singing along when the accompaniments of pedal steel and electric guitar joined in.

This was followed by the sonic chaos of "Neely O'Hara," in which the diversity of instruments made for fun anarchy reminiscent of Modest Mouse. The hollering from that song seemed to affect Oberst's voice, though, as it sounded a bit strained in performing the final six songs. But he soldiered through, giving the crowd their money's worth as he interspersed the set with comments about how much this inland Nebraska boy enjoyed swimming in the ocean earlier in the day.

When it comes to their musical idols, fans are a lenient bunch. Even if Oberst's voice, arm, and hip weren't 100 percent, his Miami fans cheered him on as though they were. One hopes that inspires him to keep powering through this tour without cutting short any more gigs.
 
Setlist

- "Dance and Sing"
- "Lover I Don't Have to Love"
- "Bowl of Oranges"
- "Four Winds"
- "Mariana Trench"
- "One and Done"
- "Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)"
- "Falling Out of Love at This Volume"
- "Persona Non Grata"
- "Shell Games"
- "Poison Oak"
- "Neely O'Hara"
- "Stairwell Song
- "The Calendar Hung Itself..."
- "To Death's Heart (in Three Parts)"
- "Another Travelin' Song"

Encore:
- "I Believe in Symmetry"
- "One for You, One for Me"
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novels, The End of the Century and Yo-Yo, are available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland