Apr 2, 2016

The Decemberists @ Sydney Opera House

The Decemberists are a bit of a conundrum in modern music. They don't really fit exactly into any particular genre. They aren't easy to classify. Sort of country, sort of folk, sort of rock. But very literate. Not really cool, except for a brief time. But they somehow appeal to a wide audience that incorporates many ages and backgrounds. Then a few years they took a little break. Their music had perhaps grown a little tired and it was probably the right thing to do. Then early 2015 they returned with a brand new album. "What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World", which was a qualified success. There were some great tunes, but some average ones. It probably could have used some careful editing. One year after the release they returned to Australia for the first time in six years. Excitement was in the air and anticipation was high. In the end the show was a huge amount of fun after perhaps a slow start.

As said the newest album is one I like, but don't love. Naturally, and with good reason, the album would feature heavily in the set. And this gave the show a bit of a steady but not exciting start. Songs like 'Cavalry Captain' and 'The Wrong Year' are just solid but not superb. But it was actually a new song in 'Carolina Low' that got me going. Lead singer Colin Meloy went solo and acoustic and it was pretty magnificent. The other drawback sometimes is the venue. The Sydney Opera House is iconic and historic but sometimes not best suited to certain bands. The Decemberists fit that bill. They are inclusive and involved. They need to feed off a live and lively audience. But Colin Meloy is the master of crowd involvement. And he finally got everyone going. '16 Military Wives' saw Meloy get each section of the crowd involved and singing. This flowed onto 'O Valencia'. We stayed standing and singing. Then it got even better. The first encore was a section of songs from 'The Hazards of Love', an album I loved but one that divided some people. But holy cow, what an encore, replete with great singing from Kelly Hogan. The second encore naturally finished with the crowd favourite "The Mariner's Revenge Song'. A perfect crowd pleaser that had everybody involved. So we all left with huge smiles and were reminded with full effect of the power of great music.

Set List
The Singer Addresses His Audience
Cavalry Captain
The Wrong Year
Hank Eat Your Oatmeal/Calamity Song
The Apology Song
Rox in the Box
Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect (with Fleetwood Mac - Dreams intro)
Make You Better
Down by the Water
Carolina Low
Better Not Wake the Baby
Culling of the Fold
16 Military Wives
O Valencia!

Prelude
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
The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)

Death Defying (Hoodoo Gurus cover)
The Mariner's Revenge Song

Dear Avery

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