Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Decemberists Concert Write Up

I tend to set high my expectations unbelievably high whenever it comes to going to a concert, especially when the band is one I really like.  The Decemberists are such a band.  And, as it turns out, I had my expectations a bit too high for the concert I went to Tuesday night.  But, alas, not all was lost.

Venue:  Iroquois Park Amphitheater, Louisville, KY
Status:  Ominous foreboding, heavy rainclouds, cyclonic winds
Opening Act:  Justin Townes Earle
Main Act:  The Decemberists (with Sara Watkins)
Time:  8:00, 04/26/2011

Dustin and I hit the road at a little after 4pm.  'Twas a 2 hour journey, through a time zone, and we had plenty of time.  We left Owensboro, tornado warning sirens blaring, ahead of the storms.  We foolishly dared to hope that the weatherfolk were wrong and the 80% chance of severe storms for Louisville was a lie.  Fortunately, we made it to the amphitheater without running into any serious weather.  We found a parking spot, grabbed our ponchos, and headed to grab seats.

I was interested to hear Justin Townes Earle, if only because I love his father's music.  Steve Earle is such an iconic folk-rocker, and I've been a fan of the man for a good while now.  Justin, it seems, inherited his dad's voice, singing in a wonderfully broken-but-smooth way.  His guitar style was cool to watch (from a musician's perspective), and his accompanying fiddler harmonized with the acoustic quite nicely.  All in all, Earle played for about 45 minutes, and the set was good.  Plus, it still hadn't rained.

At 9pm-ish the Decemberists took the stage, opening with "Apology Song," a humorous song that frontman Colin Meloy wrote for his friend after his bike was stolen while under Meloy's care.  The band sounded exactly like listening to an album, crisp and clear.  Meloy made a few remarks about the weather and the threat of tornadoes, alluding to a mysterious safety bunker beneath the stage for the band.

For the next hour and a half the band played, hitting nearly every selection off of their newest album The King is Dead, but also playing many songs from their vast catalog.  However, this is where I felt a bit slighted.  For some reason, the group didn't play anything from their brilliant Crane Wife album, which happens to be my favorite.  Unfortunately, that means they didn't play "Shankill Butchers," "O Valencia," or any of the three-parted "Crane Wife."

Still, despite none of my favorite album being played, there were two stand out performances.  The first was the devilishly fun "Rake's Song."  If you know anything about me and my tastes in music or dark fiction, it's obvious why I like this song so much.  I mean, the guy killed-- no, just listen.  Watch.  This is similar to how the band played Tuesday.
Don't the red lights paint the wicked deeds for what they are?  Spooky, eh?  Keisha doesn't like the song...

The best song was undoubtedly the encored "Mariner's Revenge Song."  This is perhaps the most popular song of the band, and I've waxed on about it before here on Rememorandom.  The song's long, but the tale is beautiful.  Before the band agreed to play it, though, they required the audience to scream as if we were being eaten by a giant whale.  After a few practices, Meloy was ready, and the familiar chords began.  The audience ebbed and swayed, the band shook and fell.  All of this was quite fitting to the lightning and stormclouds overhead.  Mercifully, no actual rain fell, only a few drops.

And the band exited stage.  A few moments later, they reappeared for a second encore, finishing off the night with "June Hymn."  Fittingly, the rain opened up during the final song, and we ended the night with a walk through the rain to the car.  We drove home through fierce gales, white squalls, and tossing waves.  I followed the eerie red lights of the lone semi in front of me through the storms for much of the way.

Eventually, we hit the port of Owensboro, and bed was soon bested.  Did I enjoy the concert?  Absolutely.  But, I like it when a band interacts more with the crowd, tells stories, rambles and has fun.  When Meloy was doing these things, it seemed like the Decemberists were enjoying themselves.  Most of the time, though, it seemed like they were just routinely playing their songs to their fans, keeping things relatively sane and simple.

As I said, I had my expectations high, and it seems like they were a bit too up-there.  That's not to say it wasn't fun--because I had a blast--but it could've been much more.  Oh well.  So it goes.


leslie said...

bet they would be great in a small venue. a pub? with the expectation of fewer songs, some story-telling, and beer.

glad the rain held off, though the Decemberists should have felt like home with it in the offing.


logankstewart said...

Oh, a small venue would be the perfect setting. Perfect for many of their songs, too, was the weather. Mood-fitting, I say.