30 April 2011

[show review] Okkervil River @ One Eyed Jacks

Three or four songs into to Okkervil River’s intimate set at One Eyed Jacks Thursday night, frontman Will Sheff removed his thick-rimmed glasses to reveal a knowing pair of droopy eyes. The lyrics and sensibilities of his staunch brand of hyper literate brood-folk serve as an indicator of what those eyes have seen, and they are deservingly weathered. Lines like “Oh, I'm a weak and lonely sort/Though I'm not sailing just for sport” or “The world is trembling and weeping/And at the point of believing” characterize Okkervil River’s music, but don’t define it as depressing or pessimistic. It's theatrical folk music that teases the listener as to what's going on backstage. If you can at all relate to any of the characters in the songs, they provide warmth, comfort, and an abstract understanding.

In concert, these sentiments are personified by the Austin-natives’ mellow, yet inspired performance. Dressed like an indie rock college professor, Sheff led the band through a set of favorites like “For Real,” “Our Live Is Not A Movie Or Maybe” and “Lost Coastlines,” as well as cuts from their forthcoming new album, I Am Very Far. They are still in the process of working out the new album live, making it an endearing experience for the audience to witness rough-around-the-edges versions of the songs. In so many cases these days, touring bands are such well-oiled machines that what you hear on stage and what you hear on record are exactly the same. Seeing a few botched intros and missed cues just made the show all the better.

Okkervil River’s appearance in New Orleans was announced only a week or two before the show, and it was scantily promoted, so everyone in attendance was a true fan. You would look around the room and see folks quietly singing along every word to every song. When the band came out for their encore, Sheff asked for the lights to be turned down, justifying with “I feel like I’m being interrogated.” The lights dimmed, and the venue transformed into your best friend’s living room — just with Okkervil River in the corner playing their hearts out.

Watch the video for "Wake And Be Fine" from I Am Very Far here:

Review by Connor Crawford
Photos by Nicole Nolan

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