The Decemberists at Vicar Street, Dublin on the 11th of February 2015
“We know, we know, we belong to ya” were the opening words from The Decemberists frontman, Colin Meloy’s mouth on Wednesday night to an audience that had packed into Vicar Street. Meloy appeared alone, posing with his acoustic guitar for pictures and opening proceedings before the remaining six members appeared on stage to assist Meloy in delivering The Singer Addresses His Audience. Although starting off slow, the slow addition of various other instruments made the song grow from it’s humble acoustic beginnings to something much bigger. The Decemberists were back in town for the first time since 2011.
Before the Portland natives took to the stage, Windings opened up the night to an audience that was slowly coming in from the streets. Windings succeed in a number of areas, but their ability to blend experimental ideas (looking at you, megaphone) with more usual guitar work makes them an exciting band to listen to as well as watch. Windings are a band that are certainly never boring.
The sharply dressed Decemberists are a band that appear to be made for the stage. The chemistry between band members is in plain sight for the entire performance, be it through sneaky smiles or odd, polka fuelled dance offs, there’s something undeniably enjoyable about watching The Decemberists perform live.
Their latest album, ‘What a Terrible World, What A Beautiful World’, which was released earlier this year featured heavily throughout the set, with Carolina Low and lead track Make You Better being particular standouts. 2005’s ‘Picaresque’ also featured fairly heavily and the more folky selection of the songs melded in perfectly with the set. Older tracks like Down By The Water and 16 Military Wives manage to sound even more impressive live, and newer tracks like Lake Song and A Beginning Song are met with the same enthusiasm.
During The Island, there was synchronized foot-stomping that the crowd ended up getting roped into participating in due to coaxing from the ever energetic Meloy. Meloy talked of his love of Dublin more than once, and upon recalling spotting a poster about a Spandau Ballet gig, an impromptu cover of Gold occurred, while members of the band looked on bewildered.
The band left the stage after a three song encore just after 11 and while spectators began their dispersal, Meloy & co surprisingly returned to the stage to deliver what can only be described as a pantomime-esque performance of The Mariner’s Revenge Song which was without a shadow of a doubt the standout song of the night. The song itself has a very upbeat, polka feel to it that automatically makes you want to dance along with it but the delivery of the song itself was something that had to be seen to be truly believed. “Ok, you all live near the sea so you’ve probably been eaten by a whale at some point. This song should be easy enough for you guys to get.” said Meloy, before explaining that when guitarist turned bouzouki wielder Chris Funke signalled, the crowd had to scream like we’d been eaten by a whale. This, of course, featured lots of practising as the song grew from it’s usual eight minutes to roughly 20. The Decemberists have a way of telling stories with their songs, and this song is probably the best example of that.
Master of the keys Jenny Conlee played dead more than once during the performance, Meloy and bassist Nate Query had a polka dance off mid-song, the crowd swayed in sync with the accordion led middle section while illuminated by green lights and of course, there was screaming when we were eaten by a whale. It was a surreal experience, and as a the song finally finished (featuring band members playing dead on stage) the buzz that had been created carried its way back into the street. The Decemberists had delivered something above and beyond what anybody in attendance had been expecting, and their inevitable return will be anticipated until it happens.