Live Music Review – The Decemberists and Andrew Bird (with Videos)

The Decemberists perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on June 8th, 2009
The Decemberists’ latest album, The Hazards of Love, is my favorite album of the year so far. So when I heard they were striking out on tour, and performing the rock-opera in its entirety I immediately snapped up tickets and began the almost intolerable wait. That wait finally ended Monday when The Decemberists made their way to Columbia, MD, to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Actually, the wait wasn’t quite over. First there was an opening act to deal with. Fortunately that wait was pretty easy, since the opening act was Sunday Music Spotlight alum Andrew Bird. Bird took the stage with a band, and proceeded to create beautiful violin and whistle compositions, with the aid of a loop pedal. This was new to me, as I’d never seen anyone loop with a full band. I’d also never seen anyone loop so seamlessly and effortlessly. He weaved in and out of loops with no discernible break, creating virtual string duets. I had high expectations for his set, and he beat them.

So with a very good Andrew Bird set out of the way it was time to get down to business. Jenny Conlee took a darkened stage and went right into the opening organ chords of the prelude. One-by-one the other members of the band filtered onto the stage, eventually easing into “The Hazards of Love 1”. And we were off.

From there the band worked through a faithful and energetic adaptation of the album. Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden were along for the show, and played their operatic impeccably. Worden, in particular, was a dynamo as The Queen. I’ll never know how she packs that much vocal power into her tiny body, but it’s incredible to see in person. Check out the video I shot of “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid” below for a taste of her power and enthusiasm.

Once the band had finished the album the show wasn’t over. Colin Meloy took the stage and played a solo version of “Red Right Ankle”. Jenny Conlee and Nate Query joined him for “A Cautionary Song”. While they were doing that the rest of the band snuck out into the crowd. After marching around the aisles for a bit they found a spot in front of the stage. Then Meloy narrated them acting out a very special adaptation of Hamlet, which included a squirrel and the Dane’s college girlfriend. The band reconvened on stage and played a few more of their original songs. Then they broke into a cover of Heart’s “Crazy on You” that absolutely brought the house down (you can see a version of this cover on last week’s Random Cover of the Week). After a high-energy rendition of “Sons & Daughters” the show was over. And what a show it was.

Check out all the photos and videos of the show, and if you were there, be sure to leave a note in the comments.

Andrew Bird performs at Merriweather Post PavilionThe Decemberists' guitarist Chris Funk wanders the crowd during their show at Merriweather Post Pavilion
The Decemberists perform a slightly modified version of Hamlet (involving a squirrel and Hamlet's college girlfriend) in the crowdThree of The Decemberists
The Decemeberists who remained on stage during HamletPost-Hamlet, The Decemberists reunite on stageThe Decemberists finish their encore

“Bower Scene/Won’t Want for Love”

“The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid”

“The Rake Song”

“Dracula’s Daughter” (aka “The Worst Song They’ve Ever Written”)

1 comment

Comments are now closed.