Jan 20, 2010

The Decemberists @ Metro Theatre

If first impressions count, well then The Decemberists made a hell of a first impression at the Metro Theatre on Tuesday night. On their first visit to Australia and playing their first club show they were hugely entertaining and massively fun. Spellbinding, revelatory and totally and utterly engaging. Worth every single cent and then some.

After years of touring these Portland players are a well oiled live machine. Not slick mind you, but very much in control of what is happening on stage, with master front man Colin Meloy leading the way. But I will get to that in a minute. They opened the night with the opening duo of songs from "The Crane Wife", which was a grand way to start the evening. Especially with the triptych of "The Island: Come & See/The Landlord's Daughter.You'll Not Feel The Drowning". This sturm und drang song blustered and thrusted with great effect before dissolving into its gentle third. Simply superb and one of the two major highlights of the night. After this we delved a bit into their past with the jaunty "This Sporting Life" and "Billy Liar". The latter song was to be the first crowd participation of the night as Colin Meloy led and divided the crowd into choruses of "ba da dum"s, which was great fun. Then the night was led into serene ballad time with the sublime "Shankill Butchers" leading the way. "On The Bus Mall" was superb as well, although Meloy seemed to momentarily forget the opening line. A brand new song was next, not sure of the title though. It was pretty good, but I think I would need to hear it again to make better judgement. It was also the only song of the night where Meloy played electric guitar. The rest of the night he would play his trusty acoustic. At this point the night was a huge success. But it got better with the mesmeric "The Rake's Song" to come next. This amazing song fairly lifted the roof, with Jenny Conlee and Chris Funk banging on drums to give the song its full thrust and delivery. This was the only "Hazards of Love" song during the night, which was a slight disappointment. Only slight though. Fully flowing by now, the crowd lapped up "16 Military Wives", which prompted another mass singalong. Then we slept during "The Chimbley Sweep". Allow me to explain. As the song closed the band slowly laid down on the stage. Then Colin asked the audience to follow suit. We all did, naturally. Before springing up again as the song finished. It's a Decemberists tradition at their shows, but for us first timers we all lapped it up with great joy. Meloy definitely knows how to play a crowd. He is a consummate performer and entertainer, regaling the crowd with 'wry observations' and keeping the humour flowing. I think he could have managed all of us to stand on our heads if he had wanted to. The band are able support too, never missing a beat at any time. Especially loved the work of messrs Conlee and Funk.

The encore topped off the night beautifully. "Eli, The Barrow Boy" was stunning and divine and then a quickly rehearsed cover followed. Thankfully this band didn't delve into cliche, instead delighting us all with a Go-Betweens song in "Bye Bye Pride". I was on cloud nine by this point. Closing with "Sons & Daughters" was a masterstroke as well. I was expecting "The Mariner's Revenge Song" at this point, but I had no complaints. Each and every one of us sung our lungs out. "Hear All The Bombs Fade Away. Hear All The Bombs Fade Away".

Set List
The Crane Wife 3
The Island: Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel The Drowning
The Sporting Life
Billy Liar
July, July!
Shankill Butchers
The Engine Driver
On The Bus Mall
(New Song)?
The Rake's Song
O Valencia!
16 Military Wives
The Chimbley Sweep

Eli, The Barrow Boy
Bye Bye Pride (Go-Betweens Cover)
Sons & Daughters


  • At January 21, 2010 , Anonymous jess said...

    Last night's show was so much fun. As was tonight's! They played The Mariner's Revenge Song, in all it's epic glory, complete with audience members/whale chow screaming and moaning!!

    Colin sure knows how to entertain. Hopefully, it won't be too long before The Decemberists grace our shores again!

  • At January 22, 2010 , Anonymous den said...

    wow fantastic...bye bye pride is my favourite go betweens song and i can imagine the decemberists doing a great version

  • At January 22, 2010 , Anonymous Claire said...

    You can hear the new song again here. I must admit, it's not really doing all that much for me at this stage, but I will wait and see.


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