Saturday, May 23, 2009

the decemberists @ the hollywood palladium

There is a rule here at WBH headquarters: If the Decemberists (or, for that matter, any of their constituent parts) are performing anywhere in the greater Los Angeles area1, m.a.b. and ako must go. So when the Decemberists kicked off their tour to support their epic rock opera The Hazards of Love at the Hollywood Palladium on Tuesday, we were not only there, but there early enough to chat with a security guard who thought that the crowd was likely to start moshing. That was only the beginning of the night’s surreality.

Other Lives opened, and were a perfect compliment to the Decemberists. They make lovely acoustic guitar/piano/cello moody indie-folk music. They are also very polite people. And the lead singer looks like like T.R. Knight with a beard. All of which are admirable qualities, and had the Decemberists not been waiting in the wings to come on, I could have listened to them all night.

The Decemberists took the stage – along with Lavander Diamond’s Becky Stark (playing Margaret) and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden (playing The Queen) – and launched into The Hazards of Love2 which was played straight through without pause. And really, what can be said? It was perfect. The band was amazing and tight and gorgeous. Becky floated around the stage with her beautiful soprano voice and flowing white gown. Shara stomped and ran and growled and wailed and I’m a little afraid of her. Colin’s sideburns and suspenders set the mood quite nicely. The highlight – by far – was “The Rake’s Song.” Colin on guitar, Nate on bass, everyone else on drums. Choreographed drums and screaming. Having Becky Stark right in front of me pounding on tom toms with mallets and screaming “all right!” while trying to look like a bad-ass in her white sparkly chiffon while Colin Meloy sings about killing children? Highlight of my life.



After a brief intermission, the band came back for a too-short set of older songs. Highlights included: duets with both Becky and Shara; “Dracula’s Daughter” not only arranged for the whole but as an intro to “O Valencia!”; Colin forgetting the words to a handful of songs; and a beautiful singalong of “Sons & Daughters”; and the John and Colin comedy hour as they came out to do “Raincoat Song” for the first song of the encore. And then, as most Decemberist shows do, the evening ended with “I Was Meant for the Stage.” While not my favorite song, it is the greatest show ender I’ve ever seen. The song ends in chaos, every member writhing on the floor – including Nate Query, holding his bass up over his head with his foot. Yes, it’s a rock ‘n’ roll cliché, but when lit-rock geeks do it, it’s just transcendent.

p.s. ako filmed "Los Angeles, I'm Yours" and it's pretty darned awesome.

1. Other than the Hollywood Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl is not an acceptable to see indie rock, or much of anything, really.
2. So “launched” is probably not exactly appropriate, as it began with Jenny Conlee slowly building up a few chords on her Hammond for the prelude.


mp3: "Black Tables" by Other Lives
mp3: "We Both Go Down Together" by the Decemberists

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