Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band
Electric Ballroom
August 27                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Eyebrows were raised when Oberst's eponymous album was release earlier this year.

His first solo effort since 1993's Water, the figurehead of US indie seemed to rip off his crown and stamp on - a mid-career crisis, if you like.

He ditched his Bright Eyes moniker and embraced the Dylan comparisons that have been heaped on him over the years. An Americana, folk-rock take on his brand of introspective, anecdotal tales, it saw him attempt to break away from a reputation forged over more than 15 years in the biz.

And the shift has affected more than just his sound. Tonight he looks different too - more rough and ready, with shaggy hair and a checked shirt, and a backing band straight out of Woodstock.

"We are sick," he announces, explaining a gravelly cough that plagues him throughout the show, giving his Mystic Valley Band chance to step up to the mic. Aside from that, the erratic ramblings that made him both lovable and loathable as Bright Eyes are notably absent, but the largely male audience still hang on his every word.

At just 28, his unrivalled ability to capture the psyche of American middle class youth has been the source of the Dylan comparisons, and Get Well Cards is his showcase. "Right there, that's the postman sleeping in the sand," he growls, his guitar poised above his head.

He sneaks off stage about five songs before the end, leaving his band to it. One song in and the crowd are getting itchy, shouting for Oberst, but the collected beards and denim burst into a cover of Harry Nilsson's Everybody's Talkin'. He joins them half way through, beer bottle and vodka in hand, for a bizarre pub-style singalong.

Visibly hyped up, he steps up his game for the extended encore. Launching himself from amps and careering around the stage, he injects new life into the cringingly country-by-numbers I Don't Wanna Die In The Hospital.

He's at his introspective best with Milk Thistle - an achingly lonely, delicate song that silences the room, from front barrier to bar queue. But this interlude is short lived, and new single Soulled Out!, goes down a storm, as does his take on blues standard Corrine Corrina, famously covered by Dylan.

A patchy gig - the new album's fillers drag him down but when he's stripped back, with just an acoustic guitar for support, there's something really quite special there.