MONDAY 14 MARCH
Paradiso (Grote Zaal), 20.30, sold out
It’s something of a relief that in 2011, The Decemberists have settled back into the realm of ‘comfort noise’. Sure, the Portland outfit have been prone to merging music with literature throughout their musical evolution, seemingly softening the melodious edges through to their major label debut, The Crane Wife. But 2009’s The Hazards of Love proved divisive. A concept album, its long and winding passages and recurring motifs made it a tricky album just to dip into. There’s no such issues with latest album The King is Dead, which quickly cuts back to the melodious heart of country, folk and indie, lapping up bouts of 1980s REM, Robyn Hitchcock and brief blasts of Neil Young-inspired harmonica. Derivative or not, they’re back to their very best of pop basics. Past Paradiso exploits have included conceptual whales and sea battle re-enactments amidst the audience, so it’s definitely worth scouring for a spare ticket.
Review by Brandon Hartley
The Decemberists were in top form during their stint at the Paradiso on Monday night. They delivered a jaunty performance with a slew of tracks from their recent release, The King is Dead, in addition to older selections like ‘The Rake’s Song’ and ‘We Both Go Down Together’. While there weren’t any reenactments of Dutch sea battles as during previous trips to the venue, the band did break out an interactive sing-along of ‘Sixteen Military Wives’, which has become a show standard in recent years.
The Decemberists ended their first encore with a fan favourite: the blood-soaked ‘Mariner’s Revenge Song’. ‘This is in honour of your great, great, great, great grandparents who were no doubt consumed by whales,’ lead singer Colin Meloy told the sold-out crowd. ‘Amsterdam is a seafaring town, right? With whales that once sneaked up the canals to eat people before returning to sea?’ He also asked everyone in attendance to play the part of the narrator’s doomed crew, who find themselves being consumed by a blubbery beast. During a key moment in the song, many diligently screamed bloody murder as the band pretended to die on stage.
We caught up with Meloy after the show and he politely chatted for a bit about Sam Adams, the mayor of the Decemberists’ port of call, Portland, Oregon. Adams recorded a goofy intro for the band that has played before shows on their current tour. ‘I called him up and he agreed to do it,’ Meloy said. ‘I went down to his office and he read it right off the script.’ Before hopping on the Decemberists’ bus, Meloy bid us adieu with this cheeky haiku that he came up with on the spot:
smells of sweet flowers,