Did you know Colin Meloy was a rock star? What we mean is, we always thought of Colin as a hyperliterate stage ham with a pocket thesaurus and 826 Valencia club card. We had no idea how effortlessly he could own CMJ’s largest audience in rapt admiration for two hours. Maybe it’s because he’s on a major now. Or because he wrote one of the greatest albums of the year. But last Friday we saw a new side of Colin. A carnival ringman who writhes on the floor, arms flailing, in between jokes that elicit three thousand belly laughs.

A carefully cultivated Decemberist aesthetic was intact: the pre-show pipe-in from Prokofiev, a backdrop of red lanterns and Japanese landscape mural, and, curiously, some pre-recorded pre-show instructions:

“First and foremost, the band has asked that you be polite and courteous to those around you. Please begin by turning to your neighbor and introducing yourself. … Look around the theater. Marvel at the architectural acumen involved in creating such a thing. Take a moment to consider the untold scores of enslaved Nubian eunuchs who built these walls stone from stone. You might use the opportunity to find all the available emergency exits as well…”

Yeah, it doesn’t sound like a party. But they hadn’t taken the stage yet.

Bouzouki in hand, Colin kicked off the set with “Crane Wife 3,” and if you’re a fan of the new album, you’ll dig this tour: the sextet played eight songs from the progtastic Crane Wife, plus “Culling Of The Fold,” a b-side Colin deemed “perhaps too violent” for inclusion on the record.

(We snapped zero good pics, but these two, and those below, we found on TammyLo’s Flickr. Do check out her excellent photo stream!)


Before launching into Picaresque’s Moz-y “Engine Driver,” Colin surveyed the packed house: “Wow. Hi everybody. We’re going to do our best to pretend we’re playing the Mercury Lounge.” By that he meant he was going to connect with the audience, make everyone feel like a part of the production. But this wasn’t Fez. And he wasn’t taking requests. How do you fold a packed mid-town opera house into the palm of your hand?

Dance contest!

That happened during an extended jam on “Perfect Crime,” the infectious new tune with an organ riff ripped from Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” and/or Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.” “Make a circle,” Colin instructed sections of the crowd, inviting rhythmically inclined fans to hop in the center and show off their moves. This was the song that brought Colin to his knees.

The stretch of inspired, if choreographed, insanity was eclipsed first with “O Valencia!” for which Colin made the audience do vocal warm-ups (“This – Is – A – Won – Der – Ful – Showwww” in standard, major triad arpeggio). Then, during “Sixteen Military Wives,” a song “about what happens when people don’t vote,” the band’s energy was at a peak. Meloy literally parted the entire audience red sea-style, and led the two sides in a singing competition. There was “lava in the middle,” Colin explained, so no crossing over! We were all ten years old, and it was a blast playing along. People got so excited they started throwing shit on the stage as Colin pogo’d during the coda. Here’s a bit of video.

We assume Mr. Meloy performs all these theatrics on every tour stop. And YouTube indicates he wears the blazer and red tie every night. You’ll have to fill us in. But it seemed special! And Colin’s mom was there, so we’re thinking he gave 110%. The suite sounds of “Island” floor us every time, but experiencing it live is a must. The Decemberists are having a moment. Go be a part of it.

1. “The Crane Wife 3″
2. “The Island: Come And See, The Landlord’s Daughter, You’ll Not Feel The Drowning”
3. “We Both Go Down Together”
4. “The Engine Driver”
5. “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)”
6. “The Perfect Crime #2″
7. “Shankill Butchers”
8. “Song For Myla Goldberg”
9. “O Valencia!”
10. “Culling Of The Fold”
11. “Sixteen Military Wives”
12. “The Crane Wife 1 And 2″
13. “Sons And Daughters”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
14. “Red Right Ankle”
15. “A Cautionary Song”
16. “I Was Meant For The Stage” (no shit!)

As promised in the pre-show intro, the band entertained, edified, and educated (during the encore John Moen and Lisa Molinaro reenacted the Charge of the Light Brigade). The whole event was endearingly dorky. But it rocked.

And now for the news about their music video. The story is that some production company was commissioned to do the animation for “O Valencia!” but the Decemberists were not pleased with the results. “So” they’ve teamed up with MTVu to find a creative fan to fill in the green screen. All the contest info is here. The winning submission will premiere on MTVu (then other outlets), and its creator gets an iMac. Really, what’s more collegiate than an album one cannot fully appreciate without Wikipedia?

We dig the irony of a raw green version…

But we’re also curious to see what the kiddies come up with. If you submit, please let us know! All MTV contests are rigged and we’ll put in a good word for you.

Comments (29)
  1. Breadman  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2006 0

    Yeah, I was there. It was a nice concert. But I do have to criticize Hammerstein ballroom for being unfriendly to shorter people. I mean, I’m only 5’8″, which is not that short, and I could barely see a thing the whole time. The stage really should be a bit higher up.

  2. Richie  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2006 0

    They’re getting a ton of positive reviews for this current tour. The show sounds like a riot, really looking forward to seeing them when they hit Europe next year.

  3. peanut  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2006 0

    they did the same exact show in montreal… the show you saw wasn’t anything “special”

  4. he wore a blue tie in Chicago last night… and we didn’t get a dance contest, so I feel cheated. Damn these early all-ages shows.

  5. Got mp3s from the NPR show the band did on 10/30 over here – http://www.culturebully.com/archives/1988

  6. Thanks Chris!

  7. Saw them in Columbus on Friday. Colin pulled the same bits down to the lava pit and dance circle. Same outfit too. Although now learning it was all planned out, I got to give it to him, it was thoroughly entertaining and it felt special being there. Maybe you should put a disclaimer up for the people at the remaining tour stops to not read the review? but either way, OVERALL FUN FUN FUN!!

  8. Julie  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2006 0

    Colin wore that same type of clothing at the Cleveland show…

  9. I took some photo’s and videos and I think this is a good place to share. Hopefully? This is all of last tuesday’s show.

    The band was The Decemberist and the Videos are here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=2vCBq3Okp6A
    and here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=oAvNnl8GQCU

    And Photo’s http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnehm/

    Who else is inlove with Lisa?

  10. Najork  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2006 0

    I saw them in SF a few weeks back (the first show of two at the Warfield). The act was largely the same; although they hadn’t added the dance contest yet, Meloy did take some kid’s cell phone, call his mom, and belt out a verse of something or other into it.

    I went as a fan of the music, considering them pretty far down the list of bands likely to completely rock out live. I was wildly, joyously, mistaken. It was an amazing show.

  11. I don’t know if you noticed, but those were paper balls people were throwing. Colin gets paper balls thrown at him in the video for Sixteen Military Wives.

  12. Alex  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2006 0

    Clutch Cargo’s in Michigan didn’t get the dance circles, or the parting of the crowd.

    However, we did get a hysterically funny “reenactment” of the execution of Anne Boleyn during set-closer “A Cautionary Song.”

    Colin and Jenny stayed on stage and played guitar, sang, played accordian, etc. The rest of the band went out into the crowd with their bits of percussion for the 3/4 time parts. Then late in the song… Colin has the other members of the band … Execute Lisa Molinaro (Anne Boleyn).

    Chris Funk got to be Henry VIII. Hee.

    Our setlist was different than that one (which resembles the other two setlists I’ve seen for this tour, the first night, and the NPR show). I was hoping for Culling Of The Fold, but no dice. Red Right Ankle, and the afformentioned Cautionary Song were the encore.

    Apparently in Boston they did a similar reenactment thing, only they did The Boston Massacre.

  13. meiniles  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2006 0

    Saw the second Portland show at the Crystal Ballroom in October. Similar show to the rest, without a dance contest. Best part never I thought I’d witness was My Mother Was A Chinese Trapeze Artist. Excellent show.

  14. i just want to mention that i was watching MTV news tonight and they mentioned your site and other music blogs on the show :]

  15. i just want to mention that i was watching MTV news tonight and they mentioned your site and other music blogs on the show :]

  16. Justin R  |   Posted on Nov 12th, 2006 0

    Columbus, OH got the lava for 16 Military Wifes, the reenactment (some people were camels, trenches, and after everyone was dead a meteor hit and destroyed everything), and him playing all on the floor, but he did that last time. He also took someones cell phone during the Culling of the Fold, and dialed (or so it appeared) and waited during the song, and then he looked as though it picked up and launched into “Listen up Boy, you gotta listen up boy…” to the amusement of all.

    He was definitely more of a rock star this time around, which I guess was OK. There was alot less improv though.

    Since Death Cab was playing in a couple days he was having fun and trash talking them and even stopping songs and singing their songs in the middle of certain parts.

  17. Connor  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    Just saw them in Minneapolis & it was nearly that awesome; apparently Colin’s caught the flu, so I assume that’s why it managed to be only “nearly.”
    We did get a “You Are My Sunshine” sing along & a tango while he fortified himself mid-set. That was bloody sweet.

  18. radios in motion  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    um….bloc party leaked. anyone know where to get it?

  19. radios in motion  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    um….bloc party leaked. anyone know where to get it?

  20. Yeah, I covered the Columbus show and was impressed with the band, but completely disppointed with the fans. All Ages…Yeah well, I guess we were all young once.

  21. Timothy  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    On Halloween in Northampton they all dressed as Ninjas and at the end, they played A Cautionary Song to pick out winners for a costume contest. After they finished that, they played two or three covers of REM songs to finish up their set.

  22. jess  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    i too was at the hammerstein show. did anyone else notice colin inserted a handful of lines from “the queen is dead” (you should hear me play pianoooo)into the perfect crime 2? has he been doing this throughout the tour as well?

  23. Sarah  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    The last time I saw them, Colin wore that blazer (his pronounced stripe-ed jacket), but sadly I don’t think he wore it at the Chicago show. We didn’t get a dance off, but we did have a showdown between sides of the audience during 16 Military Wives, and Chris Funk, Lisa, and I think John reenacted the final battle of Lord of the Rings in the pit.

    I was pretty impressed, especially since I had definitely read a bad show review or two about this tour. My only complaint was the lack of Mariner’s Revenge Song.

  24. Caroline  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    Um, I was there and I definitely do NOT recall them playing “Legionnaire” during their Charge of the Light Brigade schpiel. I’m pretty sure they were supposed to play it but didn’t.

  25. dannygutters  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    Colin has always been rocking out you just weren’t there. They were doing the dance and ran around schubas all of 3 years ago. They are really an excellent live band.

  26. aquadrun  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    can someone verify this?
    Arcade Fire: “audio recording of a piano part, gonna be used for their upcoming part. rough recording’

    www. yousendit .com /transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=4864B2CC79D40980&key=66464e58e3ec162f8f86e16cfebc303c71aa839e

  27. jeff  |   Posted on Nov 13th, 2006 0

    i saw the ny show. as mentioned above, he definitely threw in a few lines of “the queen is dead” including “we can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry…” during the dance contest. i’m guessing it was just a spur of the moment smiths nod. he’s clearly a big morrissey fan.

  28. J. M.  |   Posted on Nov 27th, 2006 0

    You know, I can’t believe no-one has brought up the name Nick Cave when talking about “Culling of the Fold”.

  29. Great guitar, I hope i Can see in the future how he play.

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