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Arts and Entertainment

Concert Review: The Decemberists

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image from colinbrown via flickr.

Against a painted backdrop of a Japanese landscape and bathed in the glow of red paper lanterns The Decemberists took the stage at the Wiltern on Saturday night to play for a full house in support of their latest album, The Crane Wife. The Portland quintet, augmented by a violin player on this tour, skillfully mingled the traditional guitar, bass and drums with a cornucopia of instruments not commonly associated with rock and/or roll: an organ, a violin, an accordion, an upright bass, a cello, a dulcimer, a hurdy-gurdy, a bouzouki and probably some others I couldn't name. But then singer/songwriter Colin Meloy doesn't traffic in the insular, personal narratives commonly associated with indie rock. He specializes in uncommonly imaginative, poetic fables that evoke distant lands and bygone eras. The combined effect is like being transported to an immigrant beerhall circa 1906.

But The Decemberists are hardly a kitsch or novelty act. This is a band that knows how to entertain a crowd. For over an hour and a half they energetically played almost every track on The Crane Wife while peppering the set with older songs, including, of course (I suspect they are contractually obligated to play this song whenever they come to town) "Los Angeles I'm Yours."

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At one point Meloy led the audience in a playful vocal warm-up ("This is a wonderful show"), which proved to be good preparation for the rousing finale of "Sons & Daughters." It was beautiful and moving to hear hundreds of voices singing along together over and over again to the refrain, "Hear all the bombs, they fade away."

Hear all the bombs, they fade away…
Hear all the bombs, they fade away…
Hear all the bombs, they fade away…
Hear all the bombs, they fade away…
Hear all the bombs, they fade away…

PS-Noteworthy local band Lavender Diamond played a short, shaky set, but they ultimately redeemed themselves by closing with the anthemic "You Broke My Heart," which finally allowed singer Becky Stark, who'd been having vocal problems the whole set, to showcase her voice in all its power.

PPS-I want to personally thank you, the trio of asshats who walked up behind me just before the show began and proceeded to chatter loudly a-mile-a-minute throughout the entire concert as though you were on a meth-fueled rampage and there were no bands playing at all. From busted cell phones to t-shirt decorating to untrustworthy friends, it was certainly a treat to hear your insights. I only wish I knew your dealer. Then I could get some magic crack. You know, the kind that makes you completely oblivious to everyone around you and simultaneously convinced you're the world's most fascinating genius.