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Friday, May 22, 2009
The Decemberists at the McDonald Theatre, 5/22
I've now seen the Decemberists in concert something like six or seven times. Much of this has to do with the fact that the band plays in and around Portland a few times a year. It's like living down the street from a bootlegger. Easy access + boredom = lots of moonshine and/or folk rock band performances.
Feel free to go back and check my math on this. Proximity notwithstanding, the Decemberists are one of the best live bands out there.
Towards the end of their show last night at the McDonald Theatre in Eugene, lead singer Colin Meloy stopped "A Cautionary Tale" to stage a historical reenactment of life along the Oregon Trail with members of the band and the audience. Maybe this has become a concert standard for the Decemberists. Meloy paused a show at the Crystal Ballroom last year to educate the crowd with an impromptu production all about the Shanghai Tunnels.
With random University of Oregon fratboys volunteering to play oxen and other audience members representing the Cascade Mountain Range and the Columbia River, "pioneers" Chris Funk and guest vocalist Shara Worden fought their way across the floor and back to the stage. I can't remember who made it up there first but, at some point, Worden jumped onto the back of one of the fratboys and started slapping him on the head. Why various members of a local fraternity turned up at a folk rock concert, I have no idea.
This is the note the Decemberists ended their show on. Prior to this, the band traded instruments with one another for an acid rock jam session in the middle of "The Chimbley Sweep." Some bands come to a show, rip through a perfect imitation of their studio recordings and call it a night. It's the Decemberists' "what the hell, why not?" crowd interaction and stage banter that keep me coming back for more. Meloy also encouraged the audience to stage a sit-in at his old dorm at the university after the show. I wonder if anyone actually showed up at Spiller Hall last night.
The Decemberists played two sets, the first a run-through of their Hazards of Love concept album, complete with dry ice and lightening effects that made the stage's Macbeth-y forest backdrop seem to pop out over their heads. Guest vocalists Becky Stark and Shara Worden played their roles well, the latter stomping around the stage like something out of Where the Wild Things Are and howling like a legitimate wicked forest queen during "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid." Stark and Worden also pounded on drums during "The Rake's Song," which involved no less than five percussion sets. 'Twas awesome.
After a break, the band returned for a second set of older tracks including "July, July," "We Both Go Down Together" and "Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)."
My iPhone was busy recording the show so I didn't manage to take any photos. I'd be happy to share this bootleg with y'all here on the blog and run the risk of receiving a cease and desist letter from Capitol Records over the holiday weekend but iTunes has decided to stop syncing-up properly with my "Speak Easy Recording Application." The image above was pilfered from a review of their recent show in Oakland. Sorry about that.