Decemberists | 4.27.11

Meloy instructed the audience to scream like a whale was chewing them alive at certain moments.



The Pageant, St. Louis, MO


I went to The Decemberists’ show not being sure what to expect.  I was quite familiar with opener Justin Townes Earle’s album, Harlem River Blues, but not as much with the music of The Decemberists. I knew the show had sold out, however, and I went in with a open mind.  The crowd did nothing to divulge what to expect – they were as varied as could be. Both hipsters and hippies were in attendance, with a few kids too young to decide which of those they wanted to be. 

 Justin Towne’s Earle set was shorter than I expected – only 30 minutes, leaving 30 minutes to set up for The Decemberists.  Despite this, he did manage to get the crowd going somewhat, but his live performance was much more mellow than his album. This was not necessarily a good thing, as his album (while being excellent) is not so over the top with enthusiasm it could afford to lose any.  He cracked a few jokes, saying, "I have been known to make some bad decisions. I’ve had problems with chemical dependency and incarceration."  Everyone laughed, though given that Earle’s Twitter feed seems to imply that he may still be having said problems, one wonders how funny his comment actually was. It wasn’t till the last two songs of his short set that he seemed to wake up, and while the audience responded well (he truly is a talented musician), but it would have been nice to see some of that fire earlier in his performance. 

Before The Decemberists came out, I was worried that their performance would be similar in that it would be quiet and slow, but I could not have been more wrong.  I finally saw what all the fuss was about – and how the show sold out so far in advance.  The band, which has include fiddler Sara Watkins on this tour, was exceptional and lead singer Colin Meloy is as charming a performer as I’ve ever seen.  He talked easily with the audience, commenting on a fan-made t-shirt for the band’s most recent album, The King is Dead.  He informed the audience member that the band’s lawyer would be contacting him – and taking his shirt.   

Even with Meloy’s stage banter – which included jokes about Phil Collins and the debacle over President Obama’s birth certificate – the music was still by far the best part of the set.  They did play heavily from The King is Dead, and the renditions of, “Rox in the Box,” and “Down By the Water,” were exceptionally good.  That said, their performance of, “The Mariner’s Revenge,” (before which, Meloy instructed the audience to scream like a whale was chewing them alive at certain moments), was the summation of everything that was good about the concert – it was humorous, energetic, and above all, felt like a bonding experience between the musicians on stage and the fans in the audience.  As I was leaving, I heard someone comment that even if the band hadn’t played their favorite song, it had still been an excellent concert – and it was.  There’s no doubt that the band will continue to sell out shows and we can just hope that they’ll keep including us as a tour stop. | Teresa Montgomery

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