Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Decemberists at The Beacon Theatre January 25th

The Beautiful Beacon Theater
The Decemberists are common folk with uncommon taste. As eclectic genre hoppers they try to transcend a specific style and just play in the tune of what inspires them. I stand by what I've said about them in the past, they're wandering minstrels. They find inspiration in every corner of what ever continent they happen to be upon. The crowd of a Decemberists show is just as wayward a group of lost souls as the band-members themselves. In the sprawling crowd you could see the young, old, & middle-aged. You saw the hippies, the rockers, the hipsters, the mathematicians, the literary scholars, and the dropouts all gathering to stand and smile while gently rocking and humming along to the Decemberists' song. 

Sadly for me, there isn't a rather substantial bone in my body that has an ear for modern country music, so, you can imagine my disappointment when I gave a listen to The Decemberists newest album "The King is Dead". I even had a brief moment of regret at buying my ticket to the show! However, I'm glad to say that I minded the live renditions of the songs from the new album significantly LESS than on the recording. These are a very talented group of musicians INDEED. For, who else could get me to listen to country-esque sounding music, and NOT totally hate it? I honestly wasn't bothered by any of the twangy pop tunes in the least. This is no small feat, I assure you. I feel that their performance has helped develop my ear a little more for different kinds of music I may not have been open to before...  

This show was very different from the previous performance I had caught a while ago. For one thing, it was a lot more light hearted. There was banter, wit, sarcasm, and especially a playfulness with the audience I hadn't had the opportunity to witness before. There were moments of sheer joy- I still can't believe that they plucked two unsuspecting ladies from the audience and made them play the Colin's and Chris' guitars in an impromptu "ROCK-off". I kept fantasizing that one of the girls would've startled us all by being a total guitar virtuoso, but, sadly... no such luck! It was OK though, you could tell that they had fun once the shock of being on stage in front of a sold out crowd in the historic and beautiful Beacon Theater had subsided. This was just one of many moments that made this show a pleasure to be at. There were guitar solo duels between band-members complete with a wandering spotlight frantically dancing between them, jokes between songs that kept everybody giggling. The show even began in jest, with an introduction by the "mayor" of The Decemberists' home town Portland, Oregon which required us all to get to know our neighbors better and break the ice- complete with a smile and handshake. There were sing-alongs- especially during the energetic "16 Military Wives", and random girls dancing in the aisles, during just about every song.

My personal favorite moment had to be the HIGHLY necessary audience participation nearing the end of my favorite song, "The Mariner's Revenge Song" where we all had to act the part of the crew aboard the ship being consumed by the massive jaws of an angry giant whale. We were asked to include a lot of wailing and choked screams in the midst of our imminent death at sea. I feel we the audience played our part rather well, and though I did NOT break character, I was brimming with joy on the inside. The performance of our "death at sea" was only enhanced when the entire band, save frontman Colin Meloy, laid down on the stage, evidently dead as well. There was an ominous pause followed by a stifled giggle as Colin sung out, "Don't know how I survived, the crew was all chewed alive, I must've slipped between his teeth..." It was then that the band slowly reanimated then zestfully sprang up in perfect timing to finish the song loud and strong.

The Decemberists are energetic, talented, and, perhaps most importantly, don't take themselves too seriously. Despite the regal setting of the beautiful theater, the band never lost focus on what mattered most, the music, and its listeners. I look forward to watching them evolve, and see how they shall challenge themselves in the future.

Here's the set list: 

California One
Down By The Water
Rox In The Box
Calamity Song
Red Right Ankle
January Hymn
Don't Carry It All
All Arise
Won't Want For Love
The Crane Wife 1
The Crane Wife  2
The Crane Wife  3
The Infanta
Sixteen Military Wives
This is Why We Fight
The Chimbley Sweep
The Mariner's Revenge Song
June Hymn

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