The Scene: When I went to pick my tickets up at 6:30, there were already 50 or more people in line waiting the cold to get in and as it tends to be when it’s sold out, The Ogden was PACKED by the time The Decemberists came on. It was tough to move around and get to the bathroom, but overall the crowd of primarily 30 somethings was well behaved. Fortunately, everyone who made it in the door was rewarded with a great show!
Opener: The show began with an opening set from Vermont’s Mountain Man. Their edgy three part harmonies and quirky sense of humor sat well with the nearly packed house that had pushed in early to get a good spot in the sold-out room for the headlining set. While their sound wasn’t as full as I was expecting they managed to keep the room fairly quiet as they passed one guitar back and forth between them. I’ll expect to see the guys at Planet Bluegrass inviting them to the stage of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival or Folks Fest in the coming years.
The Decemberists: After a brief break, the house lights went down and bright purple spotlights shined down on the shoulder to shoulder crowd jammed into every nook and cranny of the theatre. A voice came over the PA that I initially thought to be Colin Meloy, but turned out to be The Decemberists Multi-Instrumentalist extraordinaire, Chris Funk. Funk introduced himself as the Mayor Portland and claimed he was hovering over the theatre as he set the scene by having us all close our eyes and picture a damp forest in the Pacific Northwest. The lights came up as the rest of the band took their places on the stage and we were off into one of the best shows of the year so far.
After opening with “Oceanside,” the band jumped right into their new album, The King is Dead, with note perfect takes on two of the tracks that sent the album to #1 on the Billboard Top 200 last month, “Down By The Water” and “Calamity Song.” Throughout the night what most impressed me, aside from Meloy’s hilarious banter between songs, was how tight the band sounded. They are clearly seasoned professionals and for this tour they enlisted the help of the very talented Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek to play fiddle, guitar and percussion and she fits in perfectly.
While songs like “The Crane Wife,” “The Rake’s Song” “16 Military Wives,” and even a Fleetwood Mac tease were highlights of the evening, Meloy was in rare form as he took every opportunity to crack a joke and even attempted to insight a feud between the Denver and Boulder residents in the audience. He made comments about some of the bands early gigs in town at The Lion’s Lair and The Larimer Lounge, praised us for how many record stores we have around town, and even tried to crush an Upslope IPA can on his head. The man clearly loves the spotlight, despite the fact that he asked the operator of exactly that device to “only shine it on him when he does some truly spectacular.” Which he added “is quite often.”
After closing the 90 minute set with “This is Why We Fight” the band emerged for two encores. The first, consisting of two songs, began with the haunting beautiful “Eli The Barrow Boy” featuring Chris Funk on Hurdy Gurdy, and then moved into a riotous performance of “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.” The band ended the show with an ode to summer, “June Hymn,” and sent us off into the brisk night very happy we had chosen to spend the evening with The Decemberists.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: B-