Bright Eyes, Lucy Dacus, Waxahatchee Give Forest Hills Stadium Something To Shout About (SHOW REVIEW/PHOTOS)

“Well, New York,” Conor Oberst teased as he emerged onstage for “Dance and Sing” early on in Bright Eyes’ set, “we’re f—ing back! What did you expect?”

The fans gathered at Forest Hills Stadium on July 31st responded with a loud cheer. It was the band’s first gig in the city in nearly a decade, and the crowd was eager to sing along to everything from old favorites through 2020’s Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was. And whether Oberst was singing, on guitar or on piano, his versatility and stage presence engaged the crowd throughout the set. 

From an informal poll conducted by opener Lucy Dacus, this seemed to be many folks’ first concert back since the pandemic began. And even still, the fragility of the moment was never far from mind — just the day before, Bright Eyes postponed their upcoming indoor shows, including a Terminal 5 gig that had been slated for the next night. But for a few hours, the three bands on the bill gave fans a bit of musical escape on a picture-perfect summer day in Queens. 

Here are five moments that stood out: 

Lucy Dacus Stars Early

A solid crowd had gathered early to catch Lucy Dacus’ opening set. The band got the audience moving from the get-go with the ripping guitar riffs toward the end of “Triple Dog Dare.” Dacus invited the fans to sing along to closer “Night Shift.” As the instrumentation kicked up in intensity with churning, distortion-filled riffs and a commanding drum beat, the audience eagerly echoed the anthemic line, “You got a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the night shift.” 

Golden Hour with Waxahatchee

As the sunset bathed the stage in golden light, Waxahatchee took the stage next. Lead vocalist Katie Crutchfield’s voice shined brightly, especially on recent track “Lilacs,” which was bolstered by harmonies with her sister, Allison. The band followed with a twangy cover of HAIM’s “The Steps.” The gentle instrumentation of closing track “St. Cloud” provided a great base to showcase Crutchfield’s pristine vocals, from gentle croons to the powerful sustained line she held towards the end of the song.   

The Orchestra Brings Songs to Vivid Life

Before Oberst emerged, a 13-piece chamber orchestra group took the stage. Various permutations of this group filtered in and out through the set, helping to bring the lush instrumentation of Bright Eyes’ tracks to life. Highlights included the intricate, dramatic strings of “One and Done,” “Comet Song” and “No One Would Riot for Less.” And buoyant horns took the jaunty “Another Travelin’ Song” to the next level, getting the crowd moving. 

The Mid Set 1-2 Punch

Midway through the set, Oberst electrified the crowd with the one-two punch of “Jejune Stars” and “Poison Oak.” The former impressed with its shredding opening riff and punishing drum beat. The latter showcased Oberst’s croon over its gentle acoustic guitar opening, which resonated throughout the hushed crowd. But as the midway point of this track gave way to the full band’s dramatic entrance, the fans let out a huge cheer. 

Up Close and Personal for the Encore 

After closing out the main set with “Comet Song,” the rumble of stomping feet in the bleachers heralded the band’s return for an encore. The three-song end once again showed Oberst’s range. The crowd cheered for the gentle acoustic guitar fingerpicking and delicate vocals of “First Day of My Life.” The rollicking “I Believe in Symmetry” followed, once again bolstered by dramatic strings from the orchestra and the oomph of two drummers. The set ended with “One for You, One for Me,” and Oberst left the stage to sing even closer to the crowd, reaching out to those at the barricade — a brief connection after over a year of missing magical music moments like this. 

“I don’t need to tell you, New York,” Bright Eyes singer Conor Oberst regaled the crowd at the end, “but you mean the world to me.”

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