Conor Oberst leaves show minutes as erratic Bright Eyes tour continues

A tour by the band Bright Eyes, which prompted fans to express concerns about frontman Conor Oberst’s erratic behavior, reached its most provocative point yet Sunday night, when the singer was described as leaving the music after just a song and a half. . The remaining musicians invited fans on stage to perform karaoke-style on a number of songs before canceling the show altogether and offering refunds.

Despite the fun of the impromptu karaoke, the Houston concert may have been a low point for a tour that had Oberst’s fans complaining about his behavior at numerous stops, though other dates seem to run smoothly.

“Conor was in appalling shape,” a Houston fan reported on social media, in a response typical of dozens of messages pouring in from concertgoers at the scene. Oberst was described as an unsteady appearance as he took the stage and “remembered only a fraction of the lyrics before” [second song] “Lover whom I don’t have to love.” … Then Conor left the stage after the track ended and never came back. Nate (Walcott) and Mike (Mogis) did their best to keep the show going and apologized to the audience several times. After 10-15 minutes, they finally brought out the rest of the band and pulled fans out of the crowd to play three songs, karaoke style.” After that, representatives from the venue took the stage and offered refunds, announcing that the show would be canceled after another karaoke song.

An on-site reporter said she appreciated the remaining members’ attempt to close the show on a fun, if non-Oberst-esque, comment, but was alarmed by what she saw during the singer’s brief time onstage. “This is a disaster and I appreciate the attempt at triage, but Jesus,” tweeted Caitlin Cruz, a senior reporter for Jezebel. “Heap Conor is okay. [White Oak Music Hall] staff were such champions over a less and less great situation.”

A Bright Eyes press representative said there were no plans to interrupt the tour, and tonight’s show at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans will continue as scheduled.

Another Houston contestant, author Holly Lyn Walrath, tweeted that Oberst sang “halfway through the second song and walked away, obviously everyone in the band was confused. I hope he’s okay. I’ve been to a lot of shows and never seen this. … Really shocked.”

Rather than be upset, most of this show’s fans — and others along the tour who have seen Oberst indulge in alarming comments or behavior — expressed sympathy for the singer and acknowledged that they were aware of the issues he was facing in the past has had to deal with and can now encounter again.

But some wonder why the people around him aren’t stepping in to appease the proceedings.

At a show in Detroit at the start of the tour, Oberst was described by attendees as falling off stage in front of the startled front row seat. At subsequent concerts in Ohio, the singer wore a black brace on his left wrist and said he broke it during the fall of Detroit. His often entertaining stage commentary has been described as cutting off the band’s introductions so that he could ramble on for five minutes or more on topics like his dog biting out a turkey’s eye. According to a Cleveland contestant, he said he wanted to “crucify a cat, crucify a squirrel, and kill a homeless person in an alleyway.”

But some shows have been less of a patchwork. “This makes me sad. (But) I was the show in Boston and it was great, none of these issues,” wrote another fan, responding to reports of the reportedly chaotic shows in Michigan and Ohio.

Lorie Liebig, a Nashville reporter who had provided reports about a recent show at the Ryman Auditorium that confused her and many other attendees for Oberst, tweeted after the latest reports came out of Houston: “Cone everyone around Conor stop pretending this whole tour is a joke and give him some help already? Jesus.”

If there’s any hesitation in suggesting the tour time out, it could be because of other stops along the way where things seem to be going well. The Columbus Dispatch critic praised Oberst in a review of a show in early April as giving a performance full of “passion and elegance … At the center of it all was Oberst, delivering his sentences as if his life depended on it.”

The current tour is the band’s first in nine years, although Oberst toured as a solo artist during that time.

One fan wrote in response to the news reports and alarmed comments on social media from the tour: “He won’t see it but I really hope Conor Oberst gets the help he needs. I hope he knows that people love him and love his art. I hope he knows that substance abuse is a disease, not a defect. I hope my son grows up long listening to new music from his namesake.”

The US tour has a busy schedule ahead, packed with several shows per week for the next month and a half, including a stop on June 23 at LA’s Greek Theater before ending in Omaha July 3. There will be a five-week break from Omaha before a European tour kicks off on August 12 for approximately three weeks.

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