Songwriting partnerships are sort of like a stew — some combinations taste great by themselves but not necessarily together, but then there are pairs that seem to take those individual flavors and create something that you couldn’t conceive of not having existed before. A sold-out crowd at Black Cat sampled such a stew in Better Oblivion Community Center recently.
Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst are brilliant songwriters and performers in their own right. Phoebe’s debut full length, Stranger in the Alps, is a brilliant example of great songwriting and mood. And Conor, through both Bright Eyes — the name he’s recorded and performed under for the past two decades — and his own name, could teach a master class in song writing.
But on their new collaboration (Conor sang a duet with Phoebe on “Would You Rather” from her debut LP), Better Oblivion Community Center, those songwriting strengths built on each other, making for some fantastic tunes. Although the duo’s album was only released at the end of January, Better Oblivion Community Center has been making some pretty big waves. Selling out venues across the country, Phoebe and Conor made it to the Black Cat on Wednesday for a super-packed show with plenty of surprises.
Stream Better Oblivion Community Center by Better Oblivion Community Center on Spotify:
It’s been a while since I’ve seen lines stretching down the block, but there it was, well before doors opened at the Black Cat: Dozens of fans were already lining the sidewalk, waiting to get in. I struck up a conversation with a couple as we filed in and found that they had driven three hours to make it to this sold-out show. And they weren’t the only ones.
Some have been anticipating this tour since the surprise release of the Better Oblivion Community Center project. And so it was no surprise that Conor and Phoebe — along with frequent Bridgers collaborator and drummer Marshall Vore, bassist Emily Retsas (who also plays with Briders’ other group boygenius), and show opener Christian Lee Hutson, who played guitar and keyboards — took the stage to enormous applause.
The stage, which was decked out with a backdrop of a center, as in “the Better Oblivion Community Center,” with the words, “It will only end in tears” hanging over Marshall’s drum kit. And as the set began, the various lights, lasers, and smoke cast a made for an exciting start! Beginning with “Didn’t Know What I Was in For” from the band’s self-titled LP, they went into the single, “Dylan Thomas,” as Phoebe and Conor played off each other. And when the set got to the song, “Exception to the Rule,” Phoebe and Conor each took to separate mics and sang out to the audience, sitting on the edge of the stage for a bit, while a big beach ball bounced around the room.
Better Oblivion Community Center has been playing a number of covers throughout the tour, and at the Black Cat it was no exception as they broke out the Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait.” In addition to the Better Oblivion numbers, the group also played songs from Conor’s Bright Eyes (“Lua”) and Bridgers own LP (“Funeral,” “Scott Street”). It was an amazing set, and a show you definitely have to catch! They continue their tour and future dates are here.
The setlist included:
Didn’t Know What I Was in For
Big Black Heart
Would You Rather (Bridgers)
Exception to the Rule
Can’t Hardly Wait (Replacements)
Little Trouble (a new song)
Lua (Bright Eyes)
Scott Street (Bridgers)
Easy / Lucky / Free
Here are some photos of Better Oblivion Community Center performing at the Black Cat on April 3, 2019. All pictures copyright and courtesy David LaMason.