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Bright Eyes, Nik Freitas and the Felice Brothers

Music Hall, Portsmouth, NH
Nov 16, 2007
By Casey

The air was chill with the cold as we walked into a crowd warm with anticipation. Bright Eyes at the Music Hall, oh my! A stately old-style theatre with a bar, a soulful rocker against war, and an eclectic crowd mad for gui-tar made for an interesting night.

Opening up first were the Felice Brothers, a crazy self-parodying country/bluegrass imbroglio. This is really the best description there is to describe them. Between ribald lyrics and a madman on the squeezebox, it got everyone warmed up as nice as moonshine would. Too bad we didnít have any, as it would have paired quite well with this crazy bunch. There was some serious talent there, as instruments were passed about a bit and crooning could be heard from any of the band. For the last song, Conor of Bright Eyes stepped in for accompaniment, which was a nice treat.

The next opener, Nik Freitas, didnít bring nearly the energy the Felice Brothers did, leaving the whole opening feeling somewhat disjointed. After getting worked up, we got brought back down by the inscrutable and plodding songs by Freitas. While his skill was good and his voice wasnít bad, he didnít have the confidence to be doing songs as solo as he was, as you need an overpowering presence to pull that off. Even with the band, he seemed a little slow on the uptake, so maybe next time donít get so stoned prior to going onstage? His set was unimpressive, overall, and while he may be better down the road, heís not ready for primetime. Shortly after he finished up, it was prime time.

Now part of every show is the crowd. Some are into it, some have mixed allegiances to openers and headliners, some just come for the music. In Bright Eyes case, you share your seats with about everyone in a tri-state area that uses a carabiner to hold on their keys (note: you are not a janitor, and while I know you canít fit your keys in your pocket due to your excessively tight jeans or corduroys, it just looks dumb), wears a striped hoody and horn rim glasses. It was like an emo-hipster/scenester convention. The only reason I point this out is because people like this are usually too cool to get excited about any opening band, and often donít even cheer for the headliner until itís encore time. Itís music people, enjoy it.

When Bright Eyes came on, I had no idea what to expect, other than 10 minutes listening to their myspace selection prior to going to the show. What I saw pleasantly surprised me, as they pushed out more energetic and soulful versions of their songs, as any good live act should. Conor, the lead singer, clearly is emotionally invested in his music, and it shows with his intensity onstage. The songs were skillfully executed, and the band remained playful and genuinely excited about sharing their music, which made it that much better. Running through the gamut of tempos, they kept everyone interested and excited, pacing the show carefully to keep everyone up but not too up. I wish I could describe the specific songs played, but as I said, Iíve never listened to Bright Eyes, but the show made it easy to want to. To close out, they proved that really all anyone wants to do is rock, as they played an old Tom Petty tune with Freitas and the Felice Brothers help.

Overall, it was a great show, despite the bumps in the road and my unfamiliarity with the music. I recommend seeing Bright Eyes to anyone, as it was just good, solid music performed by people who really care about putting on a good show.

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