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Tale of Two Concerts

The Decemberists / Blind Pilot
Riverside Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
May 29, 2009
The Decemberists Chris Cornell The Decemberists

Story by Jeff Purcell
Photos by Gypsy Davey

What patrons of the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee didn't expect last night from the Decemberists performance was that they would be granted two shows for the price of one. The first set featured their new release The Hazards Of Love. A concept album, rock opera if you will that features shape shifting creatures, an evil queen and an innocent girl all caught up in a tale of lust, murder and love. They pulled off this demanding piece with more energy, power and emotion than can be captured on the recording. Being an hour long piece that shifts from one song and theme to the other it left little time for audience interaction or reaction. Serious and intense the story unfolded in a haze of fog, lights, roaring guitars and forest backdrop. Guests Becky Stark & Shara Worden gave outstanding performances as the voices of Margaret and the Queen, respectively. The band was extremely well rehearsed and played like a well oiled machine without stripping the emotion and intent from the songs.

The second set was quite a different experience all together. The tunes were obviously from previous releases and the songs and their forms were shorter, lighter and I might say more playful. The themes were of a similar literary quality; architects, double suicides, military wives, Civil War area ghosts and the like but it was obvious that both the band and the audience were having fun and the mood was celebratory. Decemberists' front man, Colin Meloy was more relaxed with the older, more familiar and less technically difficult song and it showed. Forgetting a few words and having guitar troubles didn't detract but made the performance more personal. He engaged the audience with witty banter and a sing along challenge (balcony vs. floor). Becky Stark & Shara Worden were brought back for a cover of the Heart classic "Crazy On You," which whipped the crowd into a frenzy and brought everyone to their feet for a deafening ovation. The evening ended with Colin asking a few members of the audience to join him on stage to sing the last chorus of the song "Sons and Daughters" and this quickly led to 200 plus people jumping on stage and surrounding the band for a joyous final chorus. Leaving the crowd fully sated and fulfilled.

Blind Pilot of Portland Oregon opened the show, their acoustic indie sound and tight playing were a perfect compliment and they were warmly received by the crowd.

Related articles:

Interview with Colin Meloy - Apr. 2007
The Decemberists / My Brightest Diamond - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - Apr. 2007
CMJ Music Marathon (The Decemberists) - Concert review - New York, NY - Oct. 2006
The Decemberists - The Crane's Wife - CD review
The Decemberists - Her Majesty - CD review

The Decemberists The Decemberists
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