The Decemberists At Beacon Theatre, Monday, April 6th, 2015, Reviewed
I am relatively new to the Decemberists. I was introduced to them by their 2011 album The King Is Dead, which I thought was one of the best albums of the year, so much so that I learned to play most of the songs. Their 2015 record What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World was good but not quite as good. I didn’t even know what they looked like. Unusual for me to see a band with this little familiarity, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
What I got was a show very heavy on material from the last two albums. The first 4 songs they played were the 4 I most wanted to hear, so I guess I could have gone home. I’m glad I didn’t.
The band features the songs and lead vocals of Colin Meloy. He has a unique point of view and a unique voice. The songs are richly textured, with little soloing. Lead guitarist Chris Funk and keyboardist Jenny Conlee play in a way that reminds of Peter Buck’s guitar in REM. Meloy’s songs are unusual – varying from quiet observations to melodramatic sagas. . He can be a bit arch at times, in a way that can be somewhat off-putting. Usually, though, he is good at getting the audience involved, including a bit where he got different sections to clap in different rhythms – sort of like McCartney conducting the crowd on the chorus of “Hey Jude”, but only with clapping.
The second encore, “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”, is a Moby Dick meets Job tale told from the point of view of sailor who has been eaten by a whale. The somewhat over the top performance features the band being eaten by large plywood whale on stage – low tech but effect special effects.
The opening act, Alvvays, was pleasant enough, with an adorable blonde lead singer. However, I couldn’t understand a word of her vocals, hard to explain in a venue with acoustics as good as the Beacon.
1. The Singer Addresses His Audience
2. Cavalry Captain
3. Down by the Water
4. Hank Eat Your Oatmeal / Calamity Song
5. Grace Cathedral Hill
7. Make You Better
8. The Wrong Year
9. The Island
10. Los Angeles, I’m Yours
11. Carolina Low
12. The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone)
13. A Bower Scene
14. Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
15. The Rake’s Song
16. 16 Military Wives
17. Dracula’s Daughter / O Valencia!
18. A Beginning Song
19. . Encore:
20. 19. 12/17/12 (Colin Meloy on harmonica)
21. 20. The Mariner’s Revenge Song