Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Review: The Decemberists @ Electric Factory in Philadelphia

The night after their November 6 date at Orpheum Theatre in Boston, The Decemberists traveled down the East coast to Pennsylvania, where they took the stage at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.

Opening for the Decemberists on this tour were fellow Portland band Loch Lamond. Their chamber-music rock sounds a bit like Sigur Ros, only I could sort of understand what they were saying. Loch Lamond’s eerie tones incorporate mandolin, violin, bass clarinet, and drums, while singer Ritchie Young’s vocals range from high, floating sounds to full, belting, rocking thunder.

The soporific music left the crowd super mellow for the Decemberists, so it took a while to really get into their set. The set began with creepy red lighting and “Shanty for Arethusa”, which made me a little uncertain about the rest of the night, as this was not the jaunty Decemberists that I know and love. But soon enough singer Colin Meloy began talking to the crowd, making inappropriate-yet-hilarious jokes.

Before long, Meloy had the crowd cheering for Obama. According to Meloy, since November 4th, the grass is a little greener, the streets are a little cleaner, and “the air is more… quilty?” which made the crowd livelier before launching into a riotous “July July!” In the spirit of political activism, The Decemberists had “Valerie Plame” next in their set list.

Next, the band played a set of three mellow, beautiful pieces: “The Engine Driver,” “On The Bus Mall,” and “The Island,” relaxing the crowd--a perfect set up for the super-charged “Perfect Crime #2”, which was my favorite song of the entire show. Shortly into the song, Meloy started marching in place. Instrumentalist Chris Funk, accordionist and keyboardist Jenny Conlee, and bassist Nate Query quickly followed suit, prompting Colin to lead the entire audience in a brisk knees-up jog in-place. After double-timing and laughing the whole way through, Colin said “and now to the floor” and dropped. He gestured and said “Down! Seriously, sit down. It’s just a floor!” The entire crowd sat, along with the rest of the band. Chris Funk added in that, “everyone who was standing voted for Mccain,” which got all the naysayers in the back to plant their tushes on the ground as well.

Afterwards, we all jumped up and chanted along, “the perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect crime” and watched incredulously as Colin Meloy tied his microphone around himself and climbed up onto the balcony from the stage and hung on to the railing for dear life as he sang the rest of the song. The crowd went completely wild when he was up there, and doubled over with laughter when he couldn’t find a way to get back down. (Eventually he hoisted himself over the railing and into the crowd, making his way down to the stage from the bar amidst thunderous applause from everyone in the house, and amusement from his band mates.)

The rest of the night was a blur of ecstasy, including “Oh, Valencia”, “Meat is Murder”, “Cutting of the Fold”, and “Chimbly Sweep”, which was introduced by saying that, in a secret interview right before Obama gave his speech on November 4th, he answered a question with that song. The Obama reference was still strong in the end, when Colin led the crowd in cheers of “yes we can!!” and “yes we did!!” The set ended with 16 Military Wives, before the encore: “Raincoat Song” (an acoustic new song) and “Sons & Daughters” (which Loch Lamond came back on stage for). The concert ended with a general feeling of warm fuzziness, and a wonderful emotion (which is usually forgone for the jazzed rush that is felt at the end of concerts) was present in everyone: hope.

The concert can be streamed online through NPR at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96585759

--Tara Jayakar

2 comments:

devon said...

not to nitpick, because god knows we hate nitpickers, but i think it's important to note this, seeing as i hope everyone can find this song somewhere and then place it firmly on repeat: it's "culling of the fold," not "cutting."

Jayakar said...

I have not heard them. I would like to.

Jay