I’ll start off with a bit of personal trivia: I have been to a total of six concerts in the span of my entire life (not including groups like the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra, which was awesome). Two of them have been The Decemberists. Clearly, I’m a fan. I loved them the last time I saw them, a year ago in Missouri, and seeing them in Minneapolis on Feb. 6 was no different.
They played at least one song from each of their five major studio albums, though most of the set centered around their newest record, The King is Dead. Their live sound doesn’t differ much from what comes across on recorded tracks — Meloy’s voice is still strong, unique and soulful to proponents; if you dislike his peculiar vocal style, it’s nasally and grating. This is great for fans, but those who don’t enjoy listening to the band’s records will get no joy out of the live show. The sound balance was also spot-on for the most part, though the all-important fiddle was sometimes buried under the too-loud rhythm guitar line.
The band’s stage presence and liveliness varied quite a bit. Jenny Conlee, the sole permanent female member, could generally be counted on to rock out on whatever instrument (organ, keyboard, accordion, big-ass drum) she happened to be playing at the time. The other members were much more animated when playing songs from older albums — I couldn’t quite tell whether it was simply a lack of familiarity with the new album, or an attempt to convey the more sober mood of what they were playing. I didn’t feel that it came across as disinterest, however, and I enjoyed the music enough that their sudden stillness after such rollicking past hits as July, July! didn’t bother me too much.
Overall, though, it was a great concert. The small annoyances were overridden by the band’s usual verbosity and ability to keep pitch and pace going while live. If you’re a fan, head to Omaha or anywhere else you can catch them — I can just about guarantee a good time. D