The Decemberists: Orpheum Theatre, Boston MA 11.4.06

The Decemberists waltzed their way into a heavily thematic set before a sold out crowd at Boston’s historic Orpheum Theater this past Saturday night. Seeing as the venue was right across the street from the place where Paul Revere got the memo before taking his famous ride, the sextet’s front-man, Colin Meloy, even made a point to comment on the fact that their pre-civil war surroundings were probably built by “enslaved Nubian units.”
With an overwhelming emphasis placed on their latest studio release, The Crane Wife, the show began with the album’s most commonly occurring tale, “The Crane Wife (parts 1, 2, &3).”  As they worked their way through the set, they dove deeper into the multi-instrumentally obsessive sound that’s provided them with the eclecticism they’re known for.  Meloy belted out heartfelt song after song while sidekick Chris Funk wandered back and forth between a 6-string, a steel pedal slide guitar, and an electric mandolin, and the group’s keyed-out extraordinaire, Jenny Conlee, alternated between a Hammond organ, accordion, and the keyboard-flute hybrid, melodica.

Towards the end of the night, “Here I Dreamt I was an Architect” kept the Vaudevillian performance going, and after feeding the old school fan base with “Architect,” the group showed off their more “epic” songwriting skills with the 12 minute plus,  “The Island.”  A highly emotional take of “Sons and Daughters” that incorporated a Meloy-led sing-a-long closed the set. 

Returning solo to the stage, Meloy sang his heart out on a somber take of “Red Right Ankle” before an unusual performance of “A Cautionary Song” which offered half the band entering from the back of the audience as they began to reenact the Boston Massacre. For a city that brought the indie world the Dresden Dolls, these bizarre stage-antics were nothing new, but nonetheless, did a great job of making the crowd awkwardly feel at home. When they wrapped the night’s history lesson, they closed the evening out with the semi-obscure “After the Bombs,” and bid their newly loyal fan base farewell. 

Photo by Amanda Ryan Albion

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