Musically, the Decemberists constantly play beautifully involved and
complicated instrumentals. The band members immerse themselves in
their instruments, displaying an obvious knowledge of every curve and
bend of each instrument and the tone it can produce. But beyond their
performance, the Decemberists delivered a concert experience. They
indulged the audience in active participation. At the end of "Billy
Liar," Meloy divided the audience into groups to sing different layered
vocal parts. Before playing their new song "Valerie Plame,"
Meloy expressed his excitement regarding Obama's victory and explained
that this song commemorates the major failures and negative legacy of
the Bush administration. Near the end of the song he encouraged the
audience to sing along and put their arms around each other.
Immediately the crowd grabbed their neighbor and everyone sang
together. He remarked that San Francisco most readily embraced the
person next to them in comparison with other cities.
Later, during "The Perfect
Crime #2," he again organized the audience into sections and had each section
clap in different rhythms to stack on one another. While San Francisco
was most loving, it was not very good at keeping time. "16 Military
Wives" prompted a call and response between Meloy and the audience with
a political twist. During the instrumental interlude, the band kept
playing and Meloy discussed their experience watching the election in
New York City. He called out "yes we can" and the audience yelled back
"yes we did." Then they finished the song. For the last song, "Sons and
Daughters," Meloy brought openers Loch Lomond to the stage and instructed the audience to sing the refrain with arms around each other once again.
Decemberists are known for their infamous encores, usually involving
much dramatic flair. Last night they played a simmered down version of
their legendary "Mariners Revenge." Originally they paraded
through the audience followed by a giant paper whale mouth. Last night
everyone stayed on stage and the closest thing to a whale jaw was
guitarist Chris Funk's arms emulating a whale eating to signal the
audience to scream. This end routine seems to be a new staple for them;
unfortunate for people who have seen the band many times. Once they
broke the audience into two groups and came down into the crowd to help
enact a war scene, but I have yet to see that again. The encore seemed
thrilling enough for all the Decemberists novices in the audience.
List: "Shanty for the Arethusa," "July, July," "Billy Liar," "Here I
Dreamt I Was An Architect," Valerie Plame," "Oceanside," "Record Year,"
"the Engine Driver," "On the Bus Mall," "Days of Elaine," "the Perfect
Crime #2," "Culling of the Fold," "Dracula's Daughter," "O Valencia!,"
"16 Military Wives," "Sons and Daughters."
Encore: "California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade," "Mariners Revenge."
Personal Bias: This is one of my favorite bands and I have seen them MANY times.
During "Culling of the Fold," Meloy stood right in front of the
barricade and at one point he took some boy's phone, searched through
it during the song, picked a person in it and called to sing the song
By the Way: They have a new album coming out in March and will be back here next spring to promote it.