Last night marked my first concert of this rapidly aging new year. A few years ago, live music had become a rather rare occurrence for me. Gone were the days of random Friday night appearances at Maxwell’s to check out bands. No more semi-monthly runs into NYC to catch a hot new act. For awhile it was just picking up tickets for the latest Pearl Jam concert and watching the rest of the musical world pass me by.
Thankfully a couple friends helped pull me out of that funk, and over the last year and a half I saw plenty of awesome shows. To kick off things off this year I met up with my sister Maureen over at the beautiful Landmark Loew’s Jersey Theatre in Jersey City to catch the first night of The Decemberists’ tour. For some reason I put off really listening to this band, but once The Crane Wife came out, I just couldn’t ignore them anymore. Not only are they brilliant with their complex songwriting and conceptual themes, but they are fun and completely lacking the pretentiousness you might expect from such music. And that shows up most in their live performance.
The opening act, My Brightest Diamond, had some real highlights (most noticeably Shara Worden’s exquisite vocals) as well as the occasional meanderings that you come to expect from a good (but not great) opening act. I’ve been meaning to check them out after seeing her perform with Sufjan Stevens, and this was a decent introduction. But there was no way for her to compete with the main act. Not that this is a competition… which is good, because they would have lost…
Anywho, I just can’t say enough good things about The Decemberists these days. Unlike so many of the recent indie sensations, they seem to be improving with each release. That’s not to say that their old material was weak – on the contrary, I downloaded their first two albums from eMusic after already getting the last two and am enjoying them. Still, it’s undeniable how much they seem to have grown with The Crane Wife.
To give you a sense of the show, here’s a clip from the fall:
That was a great opener, but it was a couple songs later when they played “The Infanta” that the audience was brought to their feet. Colin Meloy (and Chris Funk) has a great stage presence and really gets into it with the audience. You can’t help but feel like they are just as excited to be playing the music for you as you are to hear them play it. My point is, if you haven’t checked them out yet, do it. And if you’re thinking about going to see them live, do it.
And to answer Jess’s question, apparently their bandwagon isn’t quite full yet. Last night (and tonight) didn’t sell out. Thankfully New Yorkers are too snobbish to take a 15 minute train ride to see a great show because it’s in Jersey… No problem by me – we picked up some good seats about 15 minutes before the show.