Music Monday :: a love letter to the Decemberists’ live shows

13 Jul

I don’t know why I pluralize these titles, but the format is stuck and there’s no going back now, I suppose.  Anyway.

I’m sure that if one were to look they could find everything there is to say about a Decemberists concert online already, but that’s not stopping me from recording a few thoughts.  I’ve kind of been itching to see them live since high school (still one of my greatest regrets is not seeing the Hazards of Love tour — but more on that in a second).  And I was not disappointed.

The less said about the opening band the better; they were fine, for what they were, but we (my everything friend and I) were sitting at this point right up at the front and had to witness far too many old white people dancing embarrassingly, so that may have tainted the band in my mind.  The standing bunch at the front gradually grew and grew and by the time the Decemberists actually came on stage, we decided to cave to the pressure, and it was a good time to do that.

There’s something to be said for the inherent theatricality of these guys.  The variety of instruments, the fact that Jenny Conlee plays the goddamn accordion, the abundance of murdersongs.  It’s a good time.  The lineup was a fair mix of new (“The Singer Addresses His Audience” as a sparse, thoughtful opener that built as more of the band members took to the stage; “Anti-Summersong” [“this is my retirement song” said Colin Meloy]; “Make You Better”) and classic (“July, July!” which was appropriate because it was, well, July; “Billy Liar” [“and now for what turned out to be the second-dirtiest song I’ve ever written” said Colin Meloy]; “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” [“I’d like to move into our Civil War ghost songs” said Colin Meloy, and I was delighted]).

And the possibly predictable highlights.  “Sixteen Military Wives” turned into him getting half the crowd to shout “la di da di da di da” at the other half, and vice versa, in a truly visceral communal experience.

When the notes struck for “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid” I got full-body shivers.  I got them again just now thinking about it.  As I have said before and will say again, The Hazards of Love is possibly my favorite album of all time and I’ve listened to it an ungodly number of times, and I genuinely wasn’t expecting to hear any of the songs because it’s a full cycle and I figured they wouldn’t pick and choose.  Oh, I have (almost) never been happier to be wrong.  It was obviously a different female voice but she – Nora O’Connor – was quite good and very fun to watch.  And then, of course, “The Rake’s Song,” which is actually one of the easier numbers to pull out of the cycle despite being so completely… plot-driven, that’s a way to put it.  There was some rather enthusiastic singing along and some rather enthusiastic applause afterward, to which Colin Meloy responded, “Why are you cheering?  That’s a horrible song.”  It is, thematically, but if the rest of the crowd is like me they were mostly cheering because they didn’t think they were going to get to hear it.

And then, the inevitable paragraph devoted to “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.”  This is an experience, complete with side-to-side a la being on a ship swaying, bouncing up and down, screaming as if being eaten by a whale, the band’s children and others carting out a giant papier-mâché whale, metallic confetti going everywhere, lights, singing along, and everything that I could have dreamed of listening to this song at top volume on the computers in the Mac lab while doing high school newspaper layout.

–your fangirl heroine.



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