Thursday, May 05, 2005

Concert Review: The Decemberists

Before tonight's show, I went through three distinct phases with The Decemberists. On the first go-round, I thought that they tried too hard by half, with their lyrics about Victorian England and their string-heavy, accordion-heavy sounds. In stage two, I gained appreciation for Colin Meloy's lyrics and the quirkiness of his stories, but I liked them tentatively, kind of the way I feel about Beck. Stage three came after I heard their new album Picaresque, and their whole ouevre and style made sense.

Tonight, they were fantastic. Meloy is great with a crowd and at ease with himself. Unlike The Shins, they were dynamic on stage -- a joy to watch. Their big-sounding songs like "16 Military Wives" and "The Chimbley Sweep" were great. Songs that weren't quite my speed, like "Eli the Barrowboy," sounded better than before. A really well-done live show leaves me liking songs that didn't quite click on the album. Their final performance of "The Mariner" worked wonders. They're showmen and legitimate talents who will outlive the flavor-of-the-month nonsense.

The Decemberists' performance came after a long, painful buildup. Willy Mason was scheduled to open. Mason is a prolific and talented nineteen-year-old whose work found its way into my iPod a few weeks ago. He's hit and miss, and his lesser songs have lyrics that sound cribbed from a cigarette-fueled Dawson's Creek episode. Still, I was pretty excited to hear him play songs like "So Long" and "Oxygen." But instead of Mason, we were treated to a listless character who called herself Rebecca. She didn't explain who she was or why she was there instead of Willy. It was a performance better left to an audition night at the Ark.

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