The Growing Wonder of Jenny Lewis and Conor Oberst

September 26, 2008 · Print This Article

By Andrew William Smith, Editor

Photos by Landin E. King

September 26, 2008

We were too young to see the Rolling Thunder Revue with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, but we bear witness to the growing wonder of Conor Oberst and Jenny Lewis, who just completed a series of dates on a double-bill of delicious implications.


Of course, this wasn’t quite the circus caravan with its 1970s scent—something we can much better imagine because of the brilliant footage available on YouTube. But the archetypal and timeless nature of songs like Jenny’s “Acid Tongue” and Conor’s “Moab” sure do make for some magical memories and combinations. The former fuels a tangible sense OF deja-vu with its epic denotations—not unlike how “The Weight” by The Band brought us something weightless and eternal.

These artists couldn’t fill the pews of our neighborhood mother church of musical sanctity for this Sunday night gig at the Ryman Auditorium, but that did not diminish from the inspired sonic sermons delivered by both Lewis and Oberst. Both artists provided full sets to mark the last day of summer and please the faithful in attendance.

Having seen Bright Eyes here on the Cassadega tour, I know how much Oberst feels at home in this building and how happy he is to cook up the comfort food of folk anthems for his fans. Like Oberst, Lewis—who acknowledges a debt to divas like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn—must be equally peace in this place.
By Cassadega, Oberst was already breaking with the bias against him due to the “emo”-implications of his earlier work, and this new Conor so clearly connects with something old. More than a severe break-away from the sound on the last Bright Eyes album in 2007, the new Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band sound builds a bridge from the past to the future, and it’s a bridge that connects us with a songwriting style so solidly rooted in the past.

Both Lewis and Oberst carry the burdens of their many talents well. Both artists are incredibly versatile and convey vintage aesthetics in their fashionable demeanor to match the visionary ideas in their songs.  When I first saw Lewis fronting Rilo Kiley in the opening slot for

Both artists seem like they could be at home as much in 1968 as in 2008. Despite the pro-peace and pro-Obama messages visible everywhere on the stage setup and on the breasts of fans in the form of buttons, the politics of songs are only hinted at in a more mythopoetic way. Without a doubt, both artists put on a near-perfect live show.

Jenny Lewis, photo by Landin E. KingConor Oberst, photo by Landin E. King

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