The Decemberists @ Koolhaus, Toronto (Photos and Review)
|13-Aug-2009 03:40 AM||Contributed by: pete||Concert Reviews|
Executing near perfectly, The Decemberists put on the kind of show that brought about a musical brain-rush that I can only get from something incredible. The concert was in support of their latest album, The Hazards Of Love, an album that has become one of favorite releases of 2009. As a result, their appearance at the Koolhaus in Toronto was one of my most anticipated events of the year.
If you haven't heard The Hazards Of Love yet, you need to prepare for something a little out of the ordinary. In brief, I would describe it as a 17 part folk-rock-opera with 70's inspired riffs, all coming together immaculately. Since the album style is uncommon, it makes sense that the style of the concert was also atypical. The show started with Jenny Conlee (keyboards, accordion, vocals) entering the stage solo, and as she played through the opening track Prelude from The Hazards Of Love, the rest of the band joined her on stage and started into second track, The Hazards Of Love 1. There was no stopping until about an hour later when they played the last note of The Hazards Of Love 4, the last track on the album. That's right, they played the entire album straight through, start to finish, without any breaks, and pulled it off with amazing flow. As brilliant as the album is in recorded format, it's even more spectacular when presented all at once in a concert setting.
The core band was joined on stage by a few other musicians, including both Becky Stark (from Lavender Diamond) and Shara Worden (from My Brightest Diamond) who sang the parts of The Queen and Margaret, respectively, on the album. Because the album is a concept piece, there was some concern on my part that it could be transformed into a heavily theatric performance. Even though both Becky and Shara were dressed for the mood of their parts and they moved to center stage to sing, they only added motions to their vocals without crossing the line into acting out. It was exactly the right level of rock show and motion. In fact, it was the kind of show I didn't want to end, but because I'm familiar with the album I could tell when were were nearing the end of the performance.
At that point, I had expected the band to take a short break and come back for an encore, but instead, the band took a slightly longer break than expected and the five core members returned to the stage to play though a very full second set made up of their earlier folk-pop material. The individual sets could have stood on their own, each as a complete show, but on top of those, the band returned to stage for encore. No complaint could be made that the show was too brief. During the second set, Colin Meloy (vocals, guitar) spent time organizing us into singing parts, engaged the audience in short discussions between songs, and injected a bit of humor, once by playing us his self-professed worst song ever written, Dracula's Daughter, that he described as "the ambience music of the 7th level of hell". We were also treated to a couple of new songs, the first sounding heavily inspired by Neil Young (after which Meloy made a reference to Neil Young, confirming the influence), and the second he referred to as a "fake mining song". Becky and Shara returned to stage to perform dueling vocals on a cover of Crazy On You, originally by Heart, that was probably way more awe-inspiring than it sounds. One of the best shows I've experienced this year.
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Media (from previous albums): Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect (mp3), 16 Military Wives (video)
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