January 29, 2011

The Decemberists at the House of Blues, Boston, Jan. 28, 2011

  "Apparently, we ruined indie," declared the Decemberists enigmatic lead singer Colin Meloy, in the middle of a small run of new songs off their new latest album, "The King Is Dead" early in the show. Meloy was referring to a recent, hilarious article in the Boston Phoenix blaming Meloy and his merry band of misfits for ruining "music doesn't mean anything" indie rock with their influential and wildly popular brand of  "trying too hard" prog-folk. The article goes on to accuse the Decemberists of spawning bands like Fleet Foxes, the National and Blitzen Trapper. (Read the Phoenix article HERE.)
  Whether you think the article is funny or just stupid, may depend on your sense of humor and your love for the band's "British"-sounding tales of long ago and its dramatic flair. In fact, the new album drops much of that for a more stripped-sound and alt-country feel of harmonicas, 12-string guitars and beautiful harmonies.
  Which brings us to Saturday night's show at the House of Blues, where Meloy led the small band version of the group through a too-short (72 minutes, to be exact), but fun-filled night of music that spanned their 10-year career. (Ed. note: I learned after the fact that Meloy reportedly had the stomach flu, causing the show to be cut short.)
   After opening with "July, July," from one of their earliest albums, the group romped through  three new tunes off the new album, beginning with the single "Down By the Water," "Rox in the Box" and "Rise to Me." It was amazing how well this new sound fit the band live. Sara Watkins, who became a star with the band Nickel Creek," is a powerhouse and a good sport (more about this later) and provided the Gillian-Welch-sung backup vocals on "King Is Dead" songs as well as some great violin solos.
   Not to be locked in on the new album, the Decemberists then launched into two of their great story-songs, "The Engine Driver" and "The Soldiering Life."
  After another new tune, "All Arise!," much of the band traded their instruments for drums and rocked the house on the highlight of the night, "The Rake's Song" from "Hazards of Love." The huge percussion sound rung out through the venue.  This was followed by more fun tunes, "Valencia" and "The Chimbley Sweep," which got the crowd singing along "For I am a poor and a wretched boy!" Watkins was goaded by Meloy into multiple violin solos, and of course, the high-end woman's voice mid-song.
  Then they left the stage waving... It seemed like a little too soon. Maybe they'd be back for a bunch of encores?
  They did come back, for two songs: A fun "A Cautionary Tale" (see video below) had three members of the band (including the poor Watkins) parading into the crowd to perform a "tableaux of the wonders of the world." It was very goofy; and "June Hymn," an ode to summer during a nonstop horrendous New England winter.
  Then the lights came on and the show was over. A fun night that should have gone on a little longer.
To view my pics from the show, click HERE.

Setlist:
July, July!
Down By the Water
Rox in the Box
Rise to Me
Won't Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
The Engine Driver
The Soldiering Life
All Arise!
This Is Why We Fight
The Rake's Song
O Valencia!
The Chimbley Sweep
----
A Cautionary Song
June Hymn

A Cautionary Song from the show (not my video):

3 comments:

Matthew said...

What time did they come on stage?

Rich K. said...

They went on exactly at 9 and were off at 10:12. Apparently Colin Meloy had the stomach flu and that was the reason for the short show.

Jason said...

I hadn't heard the Decemberist until their latest album so I'm coming at it with a completely open mind. I must say I do love the album and wish I could have seen this show.