Bright Eyes pulled out all the stops to deliver a full-band performance of “Dance and Sing” Wednesday on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. The track comes off the group’s 2020 album Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, which Rolling Stone said reminds listeners why frontman Conor Oberst “was one of the best singer-songwriters of the 2000s.”
Oberst, alongside longtime Bright Eyes members Nate Walcott and Mike Mogis, were backed by a large group of musicians, including a full strings section and horn players, for the performance. Looking less like the brains of one of indie rock’s most beloved outfits and more like a disaffected Soundcloud rapper, Oberst whirled about the stage, hair obscuring his face, as he sang the introspective tune — which oozes with the type of sardonic pop culture-references and cultural observations that defined the group’s output in the early 00s.
“Got a diamond cold heart and I got it in spades/With the Walkman fading like an audio slave,” Oberst sings. “It’s a self-induced seizure like a kid at a rave/Smeared in Day-Glo paint.”
The performance comes ahead of the re-release of the first three Bright Eyes albums — A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997 (1998), Letting Off the Happiness (1998), and Fevers and Mirrors (2000) — as a part of the band’s ambitious effort to reissue its entire catalog. Each reissue is accompanied by a companion EP of re-imagined album tracks and covers featuring guest appearances from artists including Oberst’s Better Oblivion Community Center collaborator Phoebe Bridgers, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, indie singer-songwriter M. Ward and Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark. In advance of the releases, which are out May 27 via Dead Oceans, the band recently released its cover of Elliott Smith’s “St. Ides Heaven,” on which Bridgers provides backing vocals.
“It’s a meaningful way to connect with the past that doesn’t feel totally nostalgic and self-indulgent,” Oberst said in a statement announcing the reissue project. “We are taking these songs and making them interesting to us all over again. I like that. I like a challenge. I like to be forced to do something that’s slightly hard, just to see if we can.”
Bright Eyes will soon embark on an expansive tour of the United States in Europe, which kicks off May 19 in Oklahoma City and wraps Sept. 6 in Glasgow. The band is also slated to perform at the ex-emo kid bait festival, When We Were Young, in Las Vegas this October.