The Decemberists | 04.15.07

I've been waiting to hear "The Tain" live, and it's just as perfect as I could have imagined. The five different parts are effortlessly seamed together, creating a harmonious piece of music.


The Pageant, St. Louis


Seeing my favorite band in concert is perhaps the best way to validate my obsession with them, and this was the best validation I've ever received. Basically, the Decemberists are a five-piece band hailing from Portland, Ore., and they consist of Colin Meloy (frontman extraordinare/guitarist), Nate Query (the enigmatic bass player), Jenny Conlee (the cutest, sweetest gal to ever play the keyboards/xylophone/pump organ/accordion), Chris Funk (a whale-tastic guitarist), and John Moen (the lively drummer and newest member of the band). But really, all of this gets slid onto the backburner, because one would see all of these characteristics while watching them.

My Brightest Diamond (Shara Worden) opened for the D's, and she was by far the best opener of the three times that I've seen them (Cass McCombs and Alasdair Roberts just didn't cut it). She erupted onto the stage dressed in white from head to toe, like a purer version of Karen O. She bounced around the stage, giggling like a little girl and growling like a ferocious, sexy beast. After playing a half-hour set with songs like "Golden Star," "Freak Out," and "Disappear," she took off with thunderous applause and lots of indie-rock "woooo's."

Then, the crowd waited—and waited—for the Decemberists to come on. Finally, the lights went down and a majestic song (the national anthem of the USSR) exploded from the Pageant soundsystem. Because the song lasted so long (who knew the people from the former Soviet Union could memorize so many words?), this was the sole weak part of the night, especially as we were all highly anticipating the Decemberists' arrival. At last, the group of masterminds emerged, dressed in white (except for Jenny, who sported a flimsy, periwinkle dress) and ready to blow our tops off. As the background droning of heavy handclaps continued, Meloy lazily played the first three distinct notes of "The Tain," an epic song that lasts over 18 minutes. I've been waiting to hear this song live, and it's just as perfect as I could have imagined. The five different parts are effortlessly seamed together, creating a harmonious piece of music.

Next up was "Crane Wife 3," a release from their newest album, The Crane Wife. Some other songs that were played during the night were "Yankee Bayonet" (with Worden singing the female vocals), "O Valencia," and a classic Decemberists staple, "16 Military Wives." "16 Military Wives" was special, as Meloy took it upon himself to divide the audience up into four parts and have each section sing a "la-de-da-de-da," which created a beautiful (or, as beautiful as it could be) harmony. Other highlights included hearing "The Island" again, as Meloy, Funk, and Query all marched at the top of the stage to the beat during the "Come & See" part of the song. While it looked very militaristic, it was really a grand sight. Not only were there songs from Crane Wife, there was also a surprising element, with "Clementine" (both their original song and a rendition of Elliott Smith's song of the same title) and "Soldiering Life."

The last song of their set was "Sons and Daughters," and it was breathtakingly beautiful. After Meloy announced to the crowd that the song was a breath of fresh air in a violent world, the group sang it, giving the crowd hope and bringing about a few tears.

The encore was "Red Right Ankle," with just Meloy and Conlee, and finally, the almighty "The Mariner's Revenge Song" finished up the night. Since I last saw them perform it at Mississippi Nights in 2005, the group has perfected the song as they have played it more often. The performance of this song shows the skills and theatrics of the band, and it tests the limits of just how far they can (and will) go. It's always been a crowd pleaser, with props and excellent crowd participation. It honestly was the perfect way to end the perfect evening. | Kaylen Hoffman

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