I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I'm thankful to be all caught up on my blog again. And remember: There are only 30 more concert days in the year!
The Decemberists, the Warfield, November 25, 2008: About a year ago, the Decemberists were set to tour the country with their Long and Short of It tour: two nights each in a selection of cities, the respective evenings devoted to songs of specific lengths. Sadly, they had to call the whole thing off early on, reportedly due to an illness in the band. It's hard to be bitter about such a turn of events, especially since it seems like the band inevitably returns to the Bay Area in one form or another before long. This past spring, Colin Meloy visited and played some lovely shows, but it was great to see the rest of the gang join him for this round.
On the whole, this outing shared some characteristics with the band's last swing through San Francisco. For example, Colin ventured into the crowd, we were commanded to wiggle our fingers during "The Perfect Crime" (I readily complied this time, wary of being reprimanded again), and "The Mariner's Revenge" got the full treatment, including Chris Funk's whale impersonation, the crowd's screams, and Colin, John, and Nate's fancy footwork. And taking a cue from his solo tour earlier this year, Colin dropped a touch of the Smiths in between songs, this time quoting from "Meat Is Murder." Once more, I ate it up.
But the differences weren't too shabby. For one thing, I loved the setlist, which encompassed sing-along after sing-along from all the albums. The longtime favorites ("July, July"), actual singles ("Billy Liar," "16 Military Wives," "Valencia"), and geographically appropriate picks ("California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade") were no surprise, but I definitely didn't expect to hear, for example, "On the Bus Mall," which I've always loved. They even aired "Dracula's Daughter," which had been granted with some coyness back in the spring. Colin asked us to lift our voices for several songs, and I detected no signs of stage fright in our section of the room. Also, I'm not sure what inspired the nod to Fleetwood Mac (one of my recent obsessions) and "Dreams," but as I too have learned, one can't live on '80s references alone.
Speaking of participation, Colin more than once requested that we put our arms around the person besides us. He's demonstrated time after time that he can command a room filled with adoring fans, but even he was surprised by the rate at which we pounced on one another. Make of that what you will. Fortunately, I was flanked by two cousins (mine and the McCormicks', respectively), so I proceeded without hesitation.
Every show I've seen in the past month has referenced the recent election, and this gig was no different. In one of the more partisan displays I've been a part of, Colin led us in a round of call-and-response. Following his declaration of "Yes we can," we answered, "Yes we did"—and it still felt wonderful.
I often hear people complaining about bands touring behind oldish albums. I have no problem with this premise; in fact, when it comes to my preferred acts, I kinda love it. Ultimately, it's your decision; you don't have to go to the show if new material is a requirement. The Decemberists ostensibly had some new songs to try out as part of their singles series, which kicked off with "Valerie Plame." Thus, they debuted some tracks, and Colin informed us that more would be coming in the spring with the release of their next album. From what I could tell, the newbies were fun and jaunty, especially in comparison to the prog leanings on the last album. However, I offer my usual caveat on unreleased tracks: Don't mind me. Besides, we'll get to hear them for ourselves in the next few months anyway.
Loch Lomond opened the show, as well as a debate on how to pronounce their name. At their best, the group's combined harmonies were magnificent, worthy of a prodigious choir and not the eight people comprising the band. At their worst, they make Belle and Sebastian sound like Scandinavian death metal in comparison. Their violinist joined the Decemberists for one song, and the rest of the group returned to the stage to contribute their divine tones to "Sons and Daughters."
» i've written pages upon pages
» hear all the bombs, they fade away