Yesterday I saw The Decemberists in concert at the Tabernacle. I’ve loved The Decemberists for a while but had never seen them in concert before. When I read their tour schedule and saw that they’d be in Atlanta Easter weekend, I knew this was my chance.
My dear friend Lauren drove the two of us to the Tabernacle with half an hour to spare. We waited impatiently while laughing at the emo haircut* that many members of the crowd, both male and female, sported. The stage was already decorated with a large backdrop of a Japanese-style landscape and large paper lanterns were hung overhead. The floor and balconies quickly filled and at 9, the opening band came onstage and played approximately seven songs. Towards the end of the set, the crowd was clearly restless. Our fellow floor-standing audience members were complaining and we all wanted The Decemberists to arrive.
At last, Colin Meloy, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, Nate Query, and Joen Moem came onstage. They opened with the title tracks from their latest album, The Crane Wife. Colin made excellent conversation between songs, which was delightful. Sometimes bands play songs continually, pausing only to say “Hello [name of city]” or just “We’re so glad to be here in [name of city].” A weak attempt at interaction can ruin a concert or at least make the experiences much less enjoyable. Fortunately, Colin had no trouble, cracking jokes about the rats in the parking lots (inspiring a fan to shout, “Atlanta’s rats love you too!”) and breaking into a spontaneous moonwalk. He led the crowd in a contest at the end of “16 Military Wives” to see which side could do the “la-dee-da” part better. “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” featured an accordion, a huge upright bass, crazy percussion, audience participation screams, and an impressively imposing large grey whale onstage, made of what looked to be paper-mache.
While I had most anticipated seeing Colin sing and perform, I found myself drawn to Jenny, who played the piano and keyboard (among other instruments, including the accordion). She threw herself into every song, playing with panache and passion. When she sang backup vocals or had a few parts in a song, the audience gave her the recognition she deserved.
Overall, it was a fantastic concert. We could have listened for another hour, but the set did last for an hour and a half, which was fairly long. Even if the set list looks paltry, The Decemberists tend to have quite long songs—more 8-minute epics than 3-minute radio hits.
Set list (all the songs they played, though I can’t remember the exact order):
The Crane Wife 1 & 2
The Crane Wife 3
Grace Cathedral Hill
The Island: ~ Come and See ~ The Landlord’s Daughter ~ You’ll Not Feel the Drowning
16 Military Wives
The Mariner’s Revenge Song
Eli, the Barrow Boy
*The emo haircut is characterized by short, choppy hair that includes fall-in-your-eyes bangs. Often accompanied by ironic small ponytails at the back of the head, its predominant color tends be black or brown. Blond streaks are permitted. Above all, the emo haircut must look slightly messy and unkempt.