In July 2003, Bright Eyes played Newport Music Hall in support of "Lifted," the pivot point in frontman Conor Oberst's transition between emo pinup and would-be Dylan.

In July 2003, Bright Eyes played Newport Music Hall in support of "Lifted," the pivot point in frontman Conor Oberst's transition between emo pinup and would-be Dylan.

Unbeknownst to the audience, the concert had a 10:30 p.m. curfew, at which point all music had to cease. There might have been some miscommunication or a behind-the-scenes screw job - or maybe Oberst couldn't read the schedule with his bangs in his eyes - but the curfew seemed to take him by surprise, too.

When the Newport crew pulled the plug before Bright Eyes' set was finished, Oberst threw a fit, tried to keep playing without amplification and eventually stormed off stage. In the alley out back, he climbed on top of a van and played another song for a congregation of fans, but the police showed up and cut that impromptu performance short. As he disappeared into the night, fuming, I got the sense he might never come back.

He did, of course, and he'll swing through again Wednesday to play LC Pavilion in what may be this city's final Bright Eyes show.

In February, Bright Eyes released their seventh album, "The People's Key." Oberst claims it's Bright Eyes' last stand, so this tour may be the last chance to hear some of the band's most beloved selections.

Oberst has been recording as Bright Eyes since the late '90s, when the band was little more than a depository for his teenage yearning. Back then he screamed his way through screeds like "The City Has Sex" and "The Calendar Hung Itself," and legions of kids screamed back.

By the time he released "Lifted" in 2002, more than just kids were paying attention. Suddenly the music press was pegging him as the voice of a generation, emo's wunderkind folk hero.

Oberst played the part. He wrote a batch of anthems that became 2005's "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning," his first serious stab at maturity. It was ham-fisted, foolishly idealistic, perilously romantic and just about perfect. "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn," the electronic album he released concurrently, made a decent companion piece.

His subsequent work with Bright Eyes has been a jumble of genre exercises, lefty politics and spiritual imagery - a series of fumbled attempts to sound sophisticated. Oberst's writing feels much freer under new guises such as the Mystic Valley Band and Monsters of Folk, away from the pressure of the Bright Eyes brand.

Each Bright Eyes album has its moments, though, because Oberst never abandoned the tools that won him a cult in the first place: quivering voice, bleeding heart, longing stare. He may have evolved past spectacles like the one at the Newport eight years ago, but I imagine at 31 he's probably still young enough at heart to climb atop a van for a sing-along.