concert reviews

Bright Eyes And Bright Eye-Openers
Bright Eyes, CocoRosie, and Tilly and the Wall at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Saturday 29 January 2005

Saturday night's sold-out show at the 9:30 club was a triumphant one for Nebraska's Bright Eyes. Main man Conor Oberst captivated the audience with his narrative songs and slightly warbling voice, from the tender "Land Locked Blues" to the fiercely political "When the President Talks to God."

But while Oberst and his six-piece backing band were solid, the two opening bands provided the greatest surprises.

The night kicked off with Tilly and the Wall, the spirit squad of Oberst's Team Love label. The quintet marched onstage stomping and clapping in rhythm, leading the audience in a cheerleader-like call-and-response. When the group burst into song, its jubilant pop melodies were literally toe-tapping: The band's percussion was provided by a tap-dancing Jamie Williams, adorned with silver wristbands that turned her bursts of energy into a sparkling blur.

The second act, CocoRosie, performed a more experimental folk that contrasted with the other groups' straightforward pop. The duo -- sisters Bianca and Sierra Casady -- were joined by a vocal percussionist sporting an Indian headdress.

The sisters' voices were complementary, in an unorthodox way: One was sweet and operatic, while the other sang with a scratchy soprano that mixed Macy Gray's grating sing-speak with Joanna Newsom's childlike whisper.

While there were bursts of energy during their set -- the male vocalist stood and rapped in French during one song -- for the most part the sisters were restrained. On "Buffalo Skins," their vocals were as fragile as the whooshing percussion and faint keyboard tinkling below them.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 31 January 2005
.: Selected discography: I'm Wide Awake It's Morning (Bright Eyes, 2005); Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (Bright Eyes, 2005); La Maison de mon Rêve (CocoRosie, 2004); Wild Like Children (Tilly and the Wall, 2004).