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Watch Conor Oberst Play His New Record Live In New York City

Ruminations is one of Conor Oberst's most personal records — and it was a surprise, even for its creator. He didn't intend to make an album — he was trying to recover from exhaustion after he was rattled by a health scare, a cyst on his brain. But when he left New York, N.Y., and moved back to his hometown of Omaha, Neb., the songs started coming. He recorded Ruminations on piano, guitar and harmonica in 48 hours during the winter after he moved home. The result is a collection of brave, dark songs that confront Oberst's thoughts during that time head-on. (For all concerned, he's now doing fine.)

Housing Works Bookstore in New York is a place that's meant a lot to Oberst over the years. It's a book shop with a mission to help the homeless and those with AIDS and HIV. He was at the very first performance at Housing Works nearly a dozen years ago, and he's played there a few times as well — including one Halloween show where he dressed as a skeleton. So on the day he released Ruminations, it was fitting that he return to Housing Works to perform all the songs from that album — some of them for the first time.

For this performance Oberst is largely seated at a piano, a harmonica strapped around his neck. His bassist, MiWi La Lupa, lays a small foundation for songs that they're still learning to play, but that are unmistakably moving and contain some of Oberst's best lyrics and imagery.

SET LIST

  • "Tachycardia"
  • "Gossamer Thin"
  • "Barbary Coast (Later)"
  • "Counting Sheep"
  • "Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch)"
  • "Next of Kin"
  • "The Rain Follows the Plow"
  • "A Little Uncanny"
  • "You All Loved Him Once"
  • "Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out"
  • CREDITS

    Producers: Bob Boilen, Saidah Blount, Colin Marshall, Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Director: Colin Marshall; Editor: Nicole Conflenti; Concert Videographers: Nicole Conflenti, Nickolai Hammar, Cameron Robert; Photographer: Ebru Yildiz for NPR;Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Rita Houston.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.
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