The Decemberists w/ the Grant Park Orchestra | 7.18.07

chicago_fantastical_adventure_061The Decemberists front man Colin Meloy was smiling ear to ear for the whole show, never showing any sign of nervousness at the massive nature of the event.  






Millennium Park, Chicago

The Decemberists have been my favorite band for a few years, so seeing them perform with a full orchestra blew me away and left me with chills down my spine. This summer, aside from hitting many major festivals, The Decemberists went on a five city tour with local orchestras.  Beginning with the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Portland natives ended this symphonic jaunt in Chicago with a free concert in Millennium Park with the Grant Park Orchestra (a collaboration with the Metro for the rock venue's twenty-fifth anniversary).  It's like Metallica's S&M . . . only nerdier.

The great lawn of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion was packed with young fans hours before the performance.  The seats nearest to the stage were reserved for season ticket holders for the Grant Park Music Festival.  These older classical music aficionados probably had no idea what they were in for.  At precisely 6:30 p.m., the orchestra emerged and took their places in the chairs near the back of the stage.  Then, after some brief words from the owner of the Metro, The Decemberists emerged, wearing whites and pastels, grinning with excitement.

The set list for the show featured songs from all four of the bands's LPs.  The show started with the gentle acoustic guitar of "Crane Wife 1 & 2" and slowly built up into a majestic symphony.  The Decemberists front man Colin Meloy was smiling ear to ear for the whole show, never showing any sign of nervousness at the massive nature of the event.  The next song was "The Infanta," a number that exploded with horns and strings.  The band gave the orchestra a break for a few numbers, playing "Perfect Crime #2" and "O Valencia!" without their support.  During these numbers, the band was able to rock out with their own energy and goofiness.  Meloy actually ran around the seating area during "Perfect Crime," slapping hands and building excitement. 

My favorite song of the set was "Odalisque," a tune from the band's first album that was transformed into an epic, dark number.  The set concluded with a beautiful rendition of "I Was Meant for the Stage." This song culminated in a freak-out in which the entire orchestra and band made as much noise as they could as the crowd roared. 

For the encore, the band played without the symphony and fans were allowed to leap from their seats and rush to the stage.  This section of the show played out more like a normal Decemberists concert (only in a huge place with amazing sound).  They rocked through "16 Military Wives" and the band's classic "Mariner's Revenge Song."  The band's energy was in full force and the crowd of enthusiastic youngsters (and the few older people who stuck around) jumped up and down with excitement. 

The orchestrations really brought The Decemberists' already symphonic sound to its fullest potential.  This is the sort of performance that their growing popularity has allowed them.  This was my sixth time seeing the band, and it was one of the best.  Meloy truly was meant for the stage . . . a big stage. | Pete Wissinger

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