I have to take back my criticisms a couple weeks ago on these fine music folks.
Marvelous Flickr photoset of tonight by zimbablade
I first saw the Decemberists by recommendation with a group of friends. I did not know any of their songs but still managed to have a great time, because their frontman, Colin Meloy, is an expert in interacting with the crowd. Besides talking a lot (really a lot) between songs, he has lots of stage antics that sets the band apart from the rest. For example, he would divide the crowd in half, and conduct them to sing along in an extended chorus, or invite people from the floor to replace the guitarists for a fake jam, and so on. I enjoyed the show a lot, and soon the songs were catchy enough they ended up in my record collection.
They did none of that tonight.
At least before encore. Instead of going for their usual stunts, they went for the extraordinary: The gutsy band dared to play their new album in its entirety. Their new album, "The Hazards of Love", does not sound exactly outstanding on record and received mixed reviews, but that is because we will not understand it until we see it performed live in its entirety: It is really meant to be a rock opera.
A non-stop, intense ride of music telling a tragic love story with precise and pristine musical sensibility, the show is a blend of genres from the last whole century: folk, bluegrass, metal and rock all melt into one album. And unlike most records, the album is arranged to be playable live, thus the lack of strange sound samples or hooks. Despite the fact, they still manage to create great aural textures with a combination of many instruments, from chime to mandolin, a harpischord as well as a grand bass viola.
Colin Meloy does not exactly have the best voice (he sometimes cannot hit certain pitches), but that’s ok, he has great energy and emotion. Meanwhile, the female vocals were also highlight tonight. I love the commanding voice of Sarah Worden from My Brightest Diamond especially. I might check out their albums in the mean time.
Here is one of the highlights, “The Rake’s Song” (plus free download), a twisted wicked tale of a mass murderer who killed all of his sons and daughters, featuring 4 sets of drums playing simultaneously! Amazing! Enjoy!