Em and I made our way to Upper Darby via the Market-Frankford elevated train to see the Decemberists at the Tower Theater. This is a lovely old venue that I find to be somewhat inconvenient becuase it’s outside the center of town, but parking is still very difficult. Fortunately, SEPTA goe right there. The upside – no need for a designated driver.
So I’m working off a hangover at the super hip coffee shop in Collingswood, NJ, while Em meets with a new yoga instructor. What, you’ve never heard of Collingswood? My point exactly. The hope had been to prepare a Blogerantz entry with a tasty tidbit from the Decemberists promo tour for Hazards of Love, namely a stop at KCRW to play some of the best bits from the album. Unfortunately, upload capacity is capped pretty low here, so it will have to wait.
It was a great show. They performed the entire album front to back, a-la Genesis with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in 74-75. That portion of the program was absolutely uninterrupted performance for about an hour. Highlights came from the guest performances of Becky Stark and the incredible Shara Worden, who are both on the record, even though they have bands of their own. We were particularly taken by Worden, who stole the show with her intense vocals and outrageous dance and movement.
Both guests stepped away for most of the second set, and that took some of the air out of the balloon, but they came back for a rousing rendition of Heart’s ‘Crazy on You’. I try not to get caught up with gimmickery of the BIG COVER. We’ve paid a good bit of money to see what this band can do. Can they bring the energy and originality of their studio work to the stage. The cover is often a cheap shot, especially for a band that has several albums worth of material. But it did feature the girls on vocals, so it was nice to have them front and center again.
This is not to take anything away form the Decemberists-proper. These guys have probably taken a lot of heat for the excessive literary nature of their lyrics. Here’s the Village Voice from 2006:
Tonight demarcates the other side of the hipster spectrum: the familiar world of self-pitying white people looking for reasons to be unhappy, or at least suspicious, despite incalculable birthright advantages. The Decemberists look down from the top of this mountain, trying to make a living off of blasé malaise.
And that’s not the nastiest of it. I wouldn’t be suprised if that was a pervasive criticism, but, you know what? After a large cup of coffee, I feel like telling The Village Voice to STFU. Better than that, however, is the fact that the band has become better, tighter, more focused and more adventurous in its dark tone. If the Voice didn’t like it back in ’06, I’ll be they really hate it now. The show hits Radio City on June 10. We’ll see what they have to say then.
The music is tremendous – direct and simple. There are no highly technical flourishes that often burden concept albums. That means that the band can concentrate, not on getting it right, but on bringing the passion and the power. And that’s just what happend. The cresendo of ‘Won’t Want For Love’ came across about two hundred times stronger live.