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Bright Eyes/The Faint
May 8, 2005 – Showbox – Seattle, WA
by Ashley Graham

The combination of two powerhouse bands on the same bill always promises a good outcome.  When those two powerhouses are The Faint and Bright Eyes, that good outcome becomes downright unbelievable.

The first time I saw The Faint I remember reflecting predominately on just how amazing front man Todd Baechle was.  He was all I watched, all I could see, because his stage presence is such a commanding force.  With every tilt of his microphone, every movement of his eyes, every slam of his fists he controls you.  What I failed to notice last time I saw them, however, is that every single aspect of The Faint’s live show is just like that and therefore my earlier characterization of the previous experience did a grave injustice to the bigger picture.  Each member is a Todd Baechle, and so is the projection screen at the back of the stage, and so are the flickering lights that mesmerize the eyes and everything else.

This music is incredible on recording but it’s even more powerful and uncontrollable in the live setting.  Songs like “Southern Belles in London Sing,” “I Disappear,” “Call Call” and “How Could I Forget?” take on new life and are able to take the audience to a place they’ve never experienced at any live show before.  The absolute highlights of the set, though, are “Worked Up So Sexual,” in which Baechle’s voice stretches out the “uuuu” to the point where it will make your head spin (in the best of ways), and the night’s first song “Agenda Suicide,” which was so amazing and powerful that it could have easily ended the set right there and still kept the night a raving success.

As fellow Saddle Creek-er Chris Hughes of Beep Beep said while opening for their previous U.S. tour, The Faint definitely has a “mall audience,” but despite their age they are a wild and crazy bunch of kids energized by good music and amazing performance.  And as Baechle said of the crowd not three songs into the set, “You guys are much better than those old fuckers last night,” referring to the previous evening’s 21 and over show.

Regardless of the crowd’s age or involvement though, The Faint is absolutely unbelievable live and after seeing them a second time I know for certain that there is no live band I’d recommend seeing more highly.

An interesting complement to that is Bright Eyes.  Although it was my fourth time seeing Conor Oberst and company take the stage, something different was in store as they played the best of one of their two most recent releases,
Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.  Bright Eyes is a ten piece band for this tour including four members of The Faint (who it would seem would be exhausted after their energetic set), as well as Gretta Cohn from Cursive and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

It takes awhile for the charm of this version to really take hold.  The audience doesn’t seem to be particularly attached to the new material, not knowing the words and not knowing how to react to the music on a physical level, which took the overwhelming excitement from The Faint to a standstill.  And, in fact, after the completion of their set and before the beginning of Bright Eyes’ there is actually a mad-dash from the front of sweaty, dance-crazed kids who already feel they’ve gotten their thirty dollars worth.  But Bright Eyes slowly becomes more and more inescapable as the set continues.

It’s not every day we get to see Conor Oberst as the sweat-drenched, screaming-from-atop-the-amps-with-only-a-mic-to-accompany-him front man.  And this set, perhaps above all else, had that to offer.  Bright Eyes seemed like more of a collective band than “Conor Oberst and those backing musicians” and in that sense Oberst more than proved himself as a worthy and powerful leader of the band. This music, and its subsequent performance, offers him as less of that disparaging youth overwhelmed by coming of age, and more as a loud and active, and still questioning, adult – which seems fitting for the twenty-five year old whose recent Tonight Show performance of “When the President Talks to God” proved him an eager and powerful leader in music’s current social, cultural and political environment.

The tour continues in the U.S. through mid-June before heading overseas for dates through July.  For more information visit
www.saddle-creek.com.