Squatting on the sticky, beer-glazed floor of the Commodore Ballroom, indie geeks, a few 40-plus parents and bookish-looking high school kids were under the command of Colin Meloy.
At one point in the show, he theatrically “killed” every member of his band and proceeded to wave his hands, silently convincing 300 people to play dead. This was strange because: a) he doesn’t seem charismatic enough to pull such a stunt and b) he’d been doing it all night.
From convincing the crowd to create embarrassingly awkward dance circles to re-enacting General Custer’s Battle of the Little Bighorn—complete with human-chickens and more death—Meloy’s antics were obviously well-rehearsed, but somehow still fun.
The highlight of the show was during the sing-along “Sons and Daughters”, arguably one of the strongest tracks off the band’s latest hyper-literate album, The Crane Wife.
“This song only works if everyone sings along,” Meloy coaxed. He was clearly referring to the track’s culminating moment when clashing voices jubilantly shout, “Hear all the bombs, fade away.” Again, the crowd obediently followed his lead to create one of those shiver-inducing concert moments that people unjustly describe as “so cool,” rather than being geeky enough to explain that the hairs on their arms stood up.
But, from the beginning, opinions on this December 15th show were skewed by the fact that anticipation had a month to build. The band cancelled their two Commodore dates “due to illness” (according to a handwritten sign pinned to the venue door) back in November.
“I drove up here from Washington. I saw the sign, turned around and was interrogated by a customs guard who didn’t believe The Decemberists were an actual band,” a young, lanky boy told me as the roadies set up the band’s equipment. That was one downside. Another was the ample opportunity for jokes ending in the almost-punch line, “Well at least now we’re seeing the band on their home turf of December.”