Review: the Decemberists live in San Diego

2011 has already been a great year for the the Decemberists, with the release of “The King is Dead” debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 last month and an incredibly successful tour selling out shows all over the country.

With six albums under their belt over the last 10 years, this success has not been earned over night. The band didn’t make a Phoenix stop on this tour, but they took the stage at San Diego's House of Blues in traditional hipster flannel and black-rimmed glasses, out to prove that they are more than just masters of the studio.

Lead singer Colin Meloy was a charming front man for the band. Whether he was heckling the crowd for more applause or stopping the show entirely to chastise a fan who yelled out for “Free Bird,” Meloy was the perfect balance of arrogance and self deprecation.

The band's music has a tendency to border on the depressing side, but their lighthearted stage presence kept the show from ever getting too melancholy. They often took whatever song they were playing and broke it down into a more comical version of itself, such as “16 Military Wives,” which Meloy got the crowd to sing the chorus of as loud as possible only to bring it back down to a whisper.

At one point during the middle of “The Chimbley Sweep,” the band broke down into a blues version of the song. Meloy ended up playing the drums while the dummer John Moen was in the middle of the stage on his back, kicking his feet wildly in the air while improvising vocals on the spot. After reclaiming the microphone, Meloy apologized for falling into a "blues vortex."

The Decemberists relied largely on songs from their new album, “The King is Dead,” opening the show with "Down By the Water," "Calamity Song" and "Rise to Me.”  Longtime fans of the band seemed a bit disappointed by this, as many shouted out titles of older songs that the band’s relatively short set list did not include.

The rest of the set list was pulled from their third album, “Picaresque,” including one of the highlights of the night, “The Mariner's Revenge Song,” which the band asked the crowd members to scream out like they were being eaten by a whale.

The show closed perfectly with the song “June Hymn,” a testament to the quality of the band’s latest album and a reminder of what this folk indie rock band is capable of.

Reach the reporter at tkuipers@asu.edu


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