[ATTENDED: April 14, 2017] The Decemberists
Two years ago Sarah and I went to The Decemberists concert at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. It was spectacular. A great venue, a dignified crowd and a great set deign. The only complaint we had at all was that we couldn’t stand up and dance (well, we could, but we try to be considerate of those around us).
We knew we’d want to see them again, so when they announced another show in Philly–this time at the Fillmore, we were super psyched. We love the venue, the sound is great and best of all, you can dance.
I was telling Sarah that I have become spoiled by smaller venues like Union Transfer, which holds about 1,000 fewer people than the Fillmore, because I can get up really close. Well, this show was sold out big time (we were packed in a little too tightly for my liking). I wanted to try to get there as early as possible, but a few things led us to getting there about ten minutes later than I had hoped. And as such we were just a little too far out for my liking–the tall people seemed to have a wall set up about five rows of people ahead of us and we just couldn’t break through it.
So that meant a lot of leaning side to side depending on who you wanted to watch and, of course, terrible pictures. But wow did they sound great. This tour was a little less elaborate than the previous one. There was no real “set,” just lights. And that’s fine because the focus was on the music!
They opened with “The Crane Wife,” in honor of this being the 10th anniversary of its release. Sarah wondered if they’d play the whole thing, but I had seen on Setlist (checking album distribution, not song titles–no spoilers please) that they were sampling all kinds of albums, so I knew they wouldn’t do that. But it was great to open with all 3 parts of that great song and to follow it with Colin’s great harmonica-drenched “Down By the Water.” The fact that the audience sang along, but didn’t drown out the band, was perfect (we sounded great).
They followed that with a really old song, “Shiny” from 5 songs one of their early EPs. I know the song, although not very well (the chorus was readily familiar, it also contains the line which is Meloy’s Instagram name. Chris Funk played slide guitar for this song too, which was great.
Meloy introduced the next song as an ode to suicide, and we were treated to a stellar version of “We Both Go Down Together.”
At some point Colin looked up and asked that the TV in the bar on the second floor be removed from the wall and smashed. Or at least turned off. A great sentiment to be sure.
Then they played two in a row from What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. That’s the tor we saw them on last time, and Sarah loves that album so she was quite pleased. Interestingly, when we saw them last time, they played the same two songs at exactly the same time in the set but their order was reversed.
The band left and Colin stayed out to do a solo version of “Red Right Ankle” a favorite of mine from Her Majesty, The Decemberists. I was tickled that mid way through the song, Jenny Conlee came out (to much applause) to play basically one or two chords before leaving and letting Colin continue solo.
Then he introduced a couple of new songs. The first one he said was very easy to sing along to. He commented that it was something of a state of the union song. And he began: everything, everything, everything, everything, everything, everything is awful. The crowd loved it. I can’t imagine this being put out on a record, but it would make a great contribution to the 7″ for the Planned Parenthood collection. This was followed by the surprisingly upbeat despite the title “We All Die Young.” We were all encouraged to sing along to that as well.
When it came time to play a few songs from The Hazards of Love, he told us that we’d be joining our story already in progress. And we rocked out (really quite loud) with “The Abduction of Margaret” and “The Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing” Kelly Hogan performed as the Queen in the Queen’s Rebuke and she did an amazing job–she got the sneer perfectly. Colin said it was her first time performing the song. I’ve mentioned before that I love Kelly Hogan and she was an awesome backing singer once again.
While I would have loved to hear “The Rake’s Song” a gain, they followed those darker songs with a wonderfully upbeat, full-audience-singalong of “O Valencia!” (complete with a “Dracula’s Daughter” snippet). I feel like we were elevated off the (blood soaked?) ground with that song.
When he announced that they had one more song there was a groan from the audience–the set was pretty short. (Especially compared to the AoM show). But they wound up playing a really long and extended and hyper and fun version of “The Chimbley Sweep” one of my favorites from Piacaresque. The song also featured a duelling guitar solo between Colin and Chris Funk–basically playing the lamest guitar solos ever–with Colin apologizing for being sacrilegious in the sacred halls of the Fillmore where Jimi Hendrix once lit his guitar on fire. Then he conducted the band–instructing each person to play or not 0r to trill their notes/voices–Jenny on accordion, Nate Query on bass (upright at the juncture but electronic many other times). John Moen on drums. Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor on backing vocals and Chris on guitar. Colin was a mad conductor, often catching them off guard. It was a lot of fun (although I think I’d rather had had an extra song).
Then they left.
And came back for an encore. I had seen from a friend’s feed that they played the entirely of “The Tain” on this tour. This multi-part, fifteen-plus-minute song is a weird one for sure, but I’ve always loved it for the catchy parts, the bawdy lyrics and the lengthy jamming instrumentation portions (Jenny’s organ sound is great). I was pretty excited to hear it live, but it far exceeded my expectations). I especially loved when Jenny had a verse to herself (a rare moment of Jenny singing). And there were some surprises as well: Chris Funk on mandolin; John Moen left the drums to play melodica (and stalk the stage) while Colin took over on drums for that section. By the end of the song, everyone was playing toy instruments as the uplifting music swelled.
Then they left again. But that wasn’t the end. They came back for one more song, a stunningly beautiful version of “June Hymn” (one of Sarah’s favorite songs). The harmonies (from Hogan and Moen and O’Connor) were just beautiful–the whole venue was filled with the joyous song.
This show was a bit shorter than the previous one (or maybe a 15 minute song counts as three regular songs) and we absolutely didn’t want it to end. I could have heard a dozen more songs easily. But it was s till a wonderful night. It was made even more wonderful when, during the encore break people flew out of the building, giving us lots of breathing room.
The show wasn’t even marred by the fact that on the way home, on Rte 95 a car sideswiped us, “totalling” our car (and driving off–yes a hit and run!). [It’s still drivable, though so we’re keeping it]. If we had only stopped at Shoo-Fry for poutine like we wanted to, that never would have happened to us. The moral is to never pass up poutine! And never pass up the Decemberists.
|The Singer Addresses His Audience [WaTW…]||The Crane Wife 1 & 2 [TCW]
|The Infanta [Picaresque]||The Crane Wife 3 [TCW]
|Calamity Song [TKiD]||Down By the Water [TKiD]
|Rox in the Box [TKiD]||Shiny [5 songs]
|Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect [CaC]||We Both Go Down Together [Picaresque]
|Make You Better [WaTW…]||The Wrong Year [WaTW…]
|The Wrong Year [WaTW…]||Make You Better [WaTW…]
|Carolina Low [WaTW…]||Red Right Ankle [HMtD}
|The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone) [THoL]||Lake Song [WaTW…]|
|A Bower Scene [THoL]||Everything is Awful [new]
|Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga) [THoL]||We All Die Young [new]|
|The Rake’s Song [THoL]||The Abduction of Margaret [THOL]
|The Crane Wife 1 & 2 [TCW]||The Queen’s Rebuke / The Crossing [THOL]|
|The Crane Wife 3 [TCW]||O Valencia! [TCW]
|Down by the Water [TKiD]||The Chimbley Sweep [HMtD}|
|16 Military Wives [Picaresque]||encore|
|O Valencia! [TCW]||The Tain [The Tain]|
|A Beginning Song [WaTW…]||encore 2|
|encore||June Hymn [TKiD]|
|The Mariner’s Revenge Song [Picaresque]|