After Hours went to the Decemberists concert at the Music Center at the Strathmore Monday night to follow up on our recent interview with Decemberists guitarist Chris Funk. The audience was full of families and fans of all ages and fashion styles—one couple looked like it just stepped out of the 1920s—and the show was lively, silly, and just as snarky as some of the Portland-area band’s quirky song lyrics.
The opening act was a surprising treat. My Brightest Diamond, an indie rock band led by Shara Worden, elicited a standing ovation from many in the crowd at the end of its set. Worden’s vocals are a blend of Fiona Apple and Edith Piaf. Her earthy, jazzy, and powerful voice soared through Strathmore. The audience erupted in cheers after the band played a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and laughed at Worden’s dancing antics during the shrill “Freak Out.”
After My Brightest Diamond’s soulful rock, the Decemberists started off with a disappointingly slow pace. The lighting was poorly run—bright flashes occasionally blinded the audience and made the first few songs hard to enjoy. Lead singer Colin Meloy stumbled around the stage aimlessly. The Strathmore, a seated venue, didn’t seem ideal for the show—the audience was detached from the stage, and the atmosphere was still and subdued. At a more intimate venue like the 9:30 Club, people might have been likelier to dance and enjoy the show in a less dignified fashion. But the Decemberists might be aiming for performances that are more theatrical in nature and less rock concert-style: Meloy announced that the would be performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in July, and the band is already booked to perform with the LA Symphony Orchestra July 7.
Read below for more on the Decemberists' performance.
A few songs into the show, the tempo picked up and the band let loose some of its geeky humor on the crowd. The second half of the show, proclaimed the “crime section” by Meloy, filled the theater with flashing colors, fast-paced beats, and a sing-along to “Sixteen Military Wives.” The last song, the eight-minute-plus “Mariner’s Revenge Song,” brought the house to its feet. A story of a young man’s plan for revenge, the song details the hunt to find the dandy who ruined the narrator’s mother—and kill him.
During the song, the drummer brought part of his set to the front of the stage and pushed it around with each beat, eventually knocking it over and lying on the floor to play it. The band implored the audience to scream as if it were being swallowed by a giant whale; in the middle of the collective scream, a “whale” resembling a big rock with a sheet hanging off of it and human legs sticking out ambled onto the stage and knocked all the band members to the floor.
It was ludicrous—but that’s what you expect from the Decemberists. Their storytelling and unconventional humor towards the end of the show sent the audience into hysterical laughter and cheers for more.
Photo by Flickr user JohannaD.