On Wednesday night, Jenn and I went with an old college friend of mine to see The Decemberists, who are touring in support of their “Hazards of Love” album. As expected, the concert did not disappoint.
The first set, as it has been nearly the entire tour, was the Hazards of Love rock opera, in its entirety, in order, without pause. Although I’ve listened to this album through many (what is sure to be over 100) times by now, it certainly tiring in the best possible way for even an audience member to watch it straight through. The music is fantastic, but watching them recreate virtually every note, watching them very intentionally work towards preserving the flawless segues by wearing electric guitars through acoustic songs, it was just awesome.
With no idle chatter, no classic Decemberists raucous through the first set, the second set was decidedly different. With a fun set that featured long and playful sing-alongs, humorous anecdotes, crowd surfing, cartwheels, and even a brief tease of “Simple Gifts,” even the less hardcore fans peppered throughout the crowd could be spotted bopping their heads, laughing, singing, and having a good time. Featuring the first performance of “Everything I Try to Do, Nothing Seems to Turn Out Right” since 2002 and the debut of a song “about Florida”, the set ranged from just plain fun – Meloy handed his guitar to someone in the audience to play – to display of raw talent – Shara Worden and Becky Stark admirably channeling Ann Wilson and crushing Heart’s “Crazy on You” like only a few on this planet could. It was total enjoyment.
The Decemberists are bold in their presentation and put on a show that is incredibly compelling. Some call them – and their performance – arrogant and exclusive. I prefer to think of the Decemberists like a fine wine: it’s challenging, it’s enjoyable, each year is significantly different, and it’s ultimately incredibly satisfying.