Conor Oberst has a history with Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in SoHo. In 2003 he attended their first benefit show where he expressed interest in performing at the venue. Soon afterward he played a memorable Halloween show with his band in full costume. On Friday night he returned with his band to Housing Works to perform his new album, Ruminations in its entirety for an intimate audience of fans for the NPR Music First Listen webcast.
Conor was warmly welcomed to the stage by the co-chairman of the board of Housing Works, Alan Light, and the host of NPR’s All Songs Considered, Bob Boilen and Rita Houston from WFUV in New York City. They both spoke of Conor’s past performances with their organizations as well as personal thoughts on his new album. Conor modestly walked on the stage and dove right into his first song, “Tachycardia.” He began his set playing the piano and switched to guitar and punctuated the tunes with his harmonica while accompanied by MiWi La Lupa, his friend and bass player.
Housing Works is such an intimate venue that I couldn’t help but be fully enveloped by the narratives in Conor’s lyrics. I was pleasantly reminded of his ability for storytelling, which transported me back to my first experience listening to Conor’s music more than 10 years ago. His album Ruminations is filled with personally crafted melodies, which are seamlessly tied to references of events in his life as well as in the rest of the world.
While Conor performs, it is abundantly clear that he pours his mind, body and soul into his music, particularly with the lyrics in Ruminations, which are apparently his darkest thus far. In his songs he speaks from a place of isolation and personal experience relating to health and legal issues, loss and the desire to disappear. The songs on this album are shorter in length than his previous work, although they are carefully thought out and completely captivating.
After Conor wrapped up his last song, the cameras were turned off and the webcast concluded.
He thanked the audience for listening and left the stage. He returned to perform an encore of two fan favorites, “Cape Canaveral,” and “At the Bottom of Everything.”
Watching Conor perform once again, demonstrated his enormous growth as a musician and storyteller over the past few years. I wait with enthusiastic anticipation to see what lyrical gifts he will bring to us in the future.
Ruminations was released this past Friday and Conor will be touring this upcoming fall and winter.
Article: Jenna Petrone