The Decemberists – Beacon Theatre, New York, NY 04/06/2015 (SHOW REVIEW)

Colin Meloy walked onto the stage at the hallowed Beacon Theater and stood in the spotlight. He started the show on his own, the conspicuous frontman plucking the cords to aptly placed and titled set-opener ‘The Singer Addresses His Audience.” It’s a coy distinction to say it’s his band, but Meloy accepts the responsibility with the same wit and in-on-the-joke wink that buoys his playful lyrics.

The song is also the inaugural track on What a Beautiful World, What a Terrible World, the newest release from The Decemberists. On its own, the record is an amalgam of all the disparate styles the band has tried on throughout the years (from prog-pop to balladry and everything in between), and best suited for fans who can navigate material that doesn’t necessarily coalesce from one track to the other as most of the band’s studio work has. Songs from the new record were strategically interspersed throughout the record, usually in sonic bunches that corresponded to past work. Shoetapping new track “Calvary Captain” introduced analogously catchy “Down by the Water” and “Calamity Song,” from the band’s prior, mostly thoroughly rewarding record, The King Is Dead.

New songs worked best in this context, like when bluesy burner “Carolina Low” segued seamlessly into quartet of The Hazards of Love songs magnetically performed by Neko Case-mainstay Kelly Hogan on background vocals. The crowd bristled with excitement at the very sold-out show, but remained anxiously seated until around the time the band played anthemic “The Island.” Then they, a glorious cross-section of Brooklyn hipster dads and the women who love them, really started to get into it. Meloy is the consummate showman and holds the audience in rapt attention both with his fierce performing and jovial interplay. He often makes jokes about his process or his personal life, and it’s this kind of door-opening that makes the band most accessible.

Like the best and most enduring artists, The Decemberists shine when onstage. By equal measure consummate musicians and approachable nerds, the band accumulated its audience incrementally, as all great road dogs are apt to do; their fans are not fickle. Every song in the set was greeted with the same rapturous warmth regardless of its chronology in the band’s career. It’s refreshing to see a band interact with their audience the way Meloy and his bandmates do, because it’s entirely organic and inspires the warmest feelings, the way great music should. By the time the set was coming to its natural conclusion with a rousing “16 Military Wives” and “O Valencia,” it felt less like a day at the office than a frisson of elements to create something special and memorable. That’s just the effect they have, and it’s why they remain a vital injection of life in the indie-rock scene.


The Singer Addresses His Audience
Cavalry Captain
Down by the Water
Hank Eat Your Oatmeal / Calamity Song
Grace Cathedral Hill
Make You Better
The Wrong Year
The Island
Los Angeles, I’m Yours
Carolina Low
The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone)
A Bower Scene
Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
The Rake’s Song
16 Military Wives
Dracula’s Daughter / O Valencia!
A Beginning Song

The Mariner’s Revenge Song


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