Collaboration between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers began a couple years ago when Oberst joined Bridgers for the single “Would You Rather” off the 2017 album Stranger In The Alps. Bridgers opened for Oberst on his tour that year, and then they surprised us with an album under their new moniker Better Oblivion Community Center in January. It’s one of the best releases of the year, so I was thrilled to be able to check them out at Lincoln Hall, a smaller venue that they sold out for two nights.
It was great to see the way these two play for each other. Their on-stage chemistry is fantastic and they seem to really love riffing together. They had jokes, beach balls, and a great setlist that kept the crowd engaged for the duration of the show. My favorite thing is the way they let one another interpret their solo songs, especially Bridgers’ vocals on “Easy/Lucky/Free,” which took an already great song and made it even better.
After 18 or so years of listening to Conor, I’m obviously less familiar with Phoebe’s work. I’ve been impressed with her ability as a songwriter and a collaborator, both here and with boygenius (her other band with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus). I was a little surprised by how many people were there more for her than they were for Conor, but that’s just my own personal bias since I’ve been listening to him longer. I felt the same when I saw the Justin Timberlake and Jay Z tour and people basically sat down whenever JT was on and went crazy when Jay Z came out.
Since they only have the one album so far, the set was padded with some of their individual work, as I mentioned above. They played three of Phoebe’s songs (“Would You Rather,” “Funeral,” and “Scott Street”), two Bright Eyes songs (“Lua” and “Easy/Lucky/Free”), as well as a cover of “Can’t Hardly Wait” by The Replacements. Those were all great to hear, but the cuts from the album were really something. With the help of Christian Lee Hutson, Emily Retsas, and a drummer whose name escapes me now (but who was extremely popular with many in the audience), they brought the songs to life in a very impactful way.