sat 28/03/2020

Better Oblivion Community Center, Shepherd's Bush Empire review - a winning combination | reviews, news & interviews

Better Oblivion Community Center, Shepherd's Bush Empire review - a winning combination

Better Oblivion Community Center, Shepherd's Bush Empire review - a winning combination

Alt-folk duo prove to have cross-generational appeal

Oberst and Bridgers have formed the perfect partnership

Better Oblivion Community Center may be a supergroup of sorts, but the name still draws less recognition that its members (Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes). Maybe it’s just too complicated to remember, because a packed Shepherd’s Bush Empire proved the band’s wide appeal – lairy lads and muso pensioners, side-by-side for a night of charm and angst.

Better Oblivion Community Center may be a supergroup of sorts, but the name still draws less recognition that its members (Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes). Maybe it’s just too complicated to remember, because a packed Shepherd’s Bush Empire proved the band’s wide appeal – lairy lads and muso pensioners, side-by-side for a night of charm and angst.

Oberst and Bridgers have very different voices, but her effortless tones melt through his fragile strains to form a sort of alchemy together. It worked surprisingly well on record, and perhaps more so live. There’s an honesty and wit that makes their songwriting so compelling, and those lyrics soared above the music in even the heaviest moments.

Their self-titled debut was a soft affair, Americana folk via melancholia and acoustics, but live they’re a more dynamic beast. Bridgers, usually seen alone with a guitar front and centre, was at one point screaming on the bass drum as Oberst thrashed about. During “Exception to the Rule”, both sat in deck chairs as beach balls bounced across the crowd (and into the keyboardist’s face). It was an infectiously playful approach, drawing you in before hitting you in the solar plexus with another affecting downturn.Phoebe Bridgers of Better Oblivion Community CenterThe heavier tracks weren’t the only surprises of the evening. In a nice touch, TVs showed artist Chris Riddell sketching along to each song. Oberst and Bridgers would also sing from each other’s back catalogues, including an epic turn of Bright Eyes’s “Lime Tree” and a vitriolic version of Bridgers’s “Funeral”.

There’s just something supremely likeable about Better Oblivion Community Center. They clearly love each other’s music, and never take things too seriously. Even their most poignant moments come with a slice of dark humour. With new single “Little Trouble” already out, it looks like we’ll have a bit longer to learn the name properly.

@OwenRichards91

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