Decemberists at the Tower last night


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.

Something new and different


Live music is an elixir nonpareil.  Depending on your predilections, you may not want to have it be too loud. You may not want to have to stand for the whole performance.  You may prefer a classical recital in a beautiful and climate-controlled auditorium.  Others like a sweaty mosh-pit.  There are innumerable options in between.  I remember seeing the great Ronnie Earl at a blues festival many years ago – he was sweating bullets; he was getting down!  But the solo was so quiet.  The crowd kept shouting for him to trun it up, but he only put his index finger to his lips as he squeezed his eyes shut and ripped out some of the tastiest riffs this side of Texas.

Anyway, it’s all good.  It cures what ails you and it sustains you and I AM talking about you, because I believe it is true for everyone.  Which brings me to the Decemberists.  I don’t know this band from a hole in the ground, but Em, in her infinite (and serendipitous) wisdom, decided that we should give these folks a listen.  It actually sounds pretty good.  This is thoughtful acoustic pop with a strong prog influence.

So we are pleased to learn that, just as we discover something new to listen to, that same group will be at the Tower Theater on Saturday night.  Tickets – $30, which is more than reasonable, considering what the titans of classic rock tend to charge these days.

And, most importantly, we will be together and listening to live music.  I can only think of a few things in life that could be better.