AP photo of Colin Meloy and Becky Stark
This past Friday was my second time seeing The Decemberists perform live this year, but my first to stay for the entire set (that’s only because The Mars Volta was playing at the same time during Bonnaroo). I knew it would be different from the majority of my concert experiences—for one thing, I’d never been to the House of Blues in Houston, and for another, the word “concert” usually doesn’t quite fit the shows I normally attend. In this case it was appropriate.
Colin Meloy and his crew came out to a beautiful cascading backdrop of lights and proceeded to reproduce The Hazards of Love, their latest release, in its entirety. Visually, the backdrop was the most exciting thing on stage, which is why I maintain it was more of a “concert” than a “show.” The costuming was minimal but that’s their thing…bottom line is if you liked the album, you enjoyed the show because it sounded exactly the same. Colin’s voice is very powerful and the acoustics of the House of Blues were excellent compared to a lot of venues. I particularly enjoyed Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond’s part as the forest queen, with her deep, almost grungy vocals giving me chills as they sailed into the epically arranged parts of "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing."
After finishing The Hazards of Love, the band took a 20-30 minute intermission before coming back out to dust off some of their older favorites. I’m not a hardcore fan but I’ve been told Castaways and Cutouts from 2002 and Picaresque from 2005 are the high points of their discography, and from those albums they played only "The Sporting Life" from Picaresque. For fans of The Crane Wife, they played "O Valencia!," "Shankill Butchers," and closed with an encore of "Sons and Daughters," with the crowd singing “Here all the bombs fade away…” over and over until the lights literally faded and the crowd dispersed into the streets of downtown Houston.