The Decemberists kicked off their newest tour tonight with a show at New York's Beacon Theater, an opulent concert hall on the Upper West Side. This most recent tour begins on the heels of the release of their sixth studio album, The King is Dead (I own five out of six...), which seems to recall lead singer Colin Meloy's folky, alternative country roots. Tonight's show, the first of three at the Beacon Theater, was added after The Decemberists' January 25 and 26 shows sold out. If you still want to try to score tickets to those shows, check out www.stubhub.com or http://newyork.craigslist.org/tia/, keyword: Decemberists.
I've always found it intriguing that, if the name Colin Meloy (the band's lead singer) was an anagram, you'd almost be able to form the word melancholy, which describes many of The Decemberists' deep ballads to love and loss. There are several factors that make this band stand out, the most noticeable of which is Colin's characteristic, I'm-an-American-from Oregon-but-I sing-like-a-sad-Briton-voice. Add some catchy, often relatable lyrics, with a clever tendency for rhyming multisyllabic words, not to mention instruments including xylophone, accordion, harmonica, and bass, besides the usual drums/keyboard/guitar mix, and it's easy to see why they are able to sell out top venues so quickly.
Tonight's show opened with songs from The King is Dead before moving onto older songs that really brought out the energy of the audience, such as the hit, O Valencia, and one of my personal favorites, especially on days when I feel particularly trapped by unrequited love, Engine Driver. The Decemberists even played more than a handful of songs from their fifth album, Hazards of Love, which they built an entire tour around last year, playing the album the entire way through at every show. (Hazards of Love is probably their most bizarre album to date, but it's yet another one you won't be able to pull yourself away from, once you give it a chance.) Colin worked the crowd well, joking with us, responding to audience enthusiasm, and shaking hands with those lucky enough to be seated in the first row.
To my dismay, the band only played one encore. However, they did encouragingly end with June Hymn, a song from their new album which I had been waiting to hear all night, and which I first discovered on Fordham University's radio station, www.wfuv.org. (The title of this post comes from June Hymn).
Having already seen The Decemberists perform at The Newport Folk Festival in 2009, and again at The Wellmont Theatre in 2010, I can say with conviction that this particular show, and its panoply of song, was most impressive, and a sure cure for my case of the Mondays.