The Decemberists

On Sunday night M and I went to The Mann in Philadelphia to see/hear The Decemberists.

I could sit here and whine about how it was 92 degrees and horribly humid when we arrived there at 7:00pm, and how our seats were in the balcony where the heat was obviously rising without benefit of any kind of breeze. I could also whine about the hike up the hill from the parking lot and how I was soaked with sweat before we even found our seats and began the slow-roasting in the balcony. But I won’t. The reason I won’t is because once the music started, I had a smashingly good time.

The Decemberists are very difficult for me to describe. They’re usually listed as an indie rock band. The program notes from the concert describe them thusly:

The past three years have seen The Decemberists rise to the first rank of the indie music world with a series of bold, beautiful albums, including 2005’s Picaresque, Her Majesty, and The Decemberists (2003). On these albums, frontman Colin Meloy’s crafty compositions marry an infallible melodic knack with a venturesome lyrical palette equally suitable for painting fantastical songs full of sea captains, legionnaires, chimney sweeps and seekers of all kinds.

Led by these songs, and by a group dynamic that embraces experimentation even as it celebrates classic pop and folk forms — to say nothing of klezmer, Irish jig, sea chantey, and prog rock — The Decemberists are firmly established as a completely original happening in the world of contemporary indie rock: sold out tours across the nation, widespread popular and critical acclaim, and an aesthetic all their own.

The program notes just begin to touch on what makes The Decemberists so difficult to describe. Their originality puts them outside of the scope of comparisons to other bands. Their songs, led by Colin Meloy’s voice, are lush, evoking olden days. and having The Mann Festival Orchestra play with them made them all the more richer. The strings section added a fullness to the songs that they don’t otherwise have without the orchestra.

The only complaint I have about the concert is that it was much too short. There was no opening band, no intermission. The Decemberists played for about 80 minutes with an additional two songs for the encore.

This isn’t the best of their songs (in my opinion), but it’s a good one:

Or you can go here: My Crazy Blog: Liveblogging the Decemberists for a detailed description of the concert with videos.

Note to those running things at The Mann: A few fans in the balcony area are very much needed during hot, humid summer nights.

Just saying.

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