Decemberists Take The Tain To NYC

The Decemberists were so awesome last night. I didn’t even mind waiting a half hour as Colin Meloy set up equipment and tuned his own guitars while Prokofiev played from the speakers.

Early set highlights included “Billy Liar” and “July! July!” which sounded like Belle & Sebastian covering They Might Be Giants. Eliza Jane and I were really excited to hear “Song For Myla Goldberg,” which features her name (Eliza’s, not Myla’s) in the refrain, in addition to lyrics like “We begin with sticky shins make sticky then our shoes / Shoes beget to clothes and hat ’til sticky’s sticking too.” Yes, Colin does have a degree in creative writing! How’d you guess?

Then the band hits us with “We’re gonna play a new song if that’s okay.” THE TAIN! “The Tain” is an experience. Not since Peter Gabriel-era Genesis has a 20-minute song kept my attention, especially in concert (except maybe Tortoise), but the Decemberists pulled it off. The EP is a musical palindrome that I’m gonna try to describe. Allegedly it’s based on animal symbolism in Celtic mythology, but I couldn’t tell you for sure. Here’s how it went down last night…

Colin kicks it off as a creepy acoustic shanty -> whole band joins in for some heavy metal action (Jenny Conlee goes wild on the Hammond) -> space-rock breakdown with multi-instrumentalist Funk on the pedal steel -> joyous Polyphonic Spree-esque mid-section -> drummer Rachel Blumberg and Colin switch places (without missing a beat) and Rachel croons some cryptic vocals before rocking a mouth organ solo that gives the song a whole evil-carnival Waking Life-soundtrack vibe -> Colin takes center stage and revisits each section in reverse order. I think I heard some cricket sounds at one point. It’s epic. DCFC’s Chris Walla produced and sings on The Tain EP. Go buy. Available on vinyl too.

First encore: “Red Right Ankle” on 12-string, which sounded gorgeous. Then after “I Was Meant For The Stage” (which all the NYU drama kids in the front row loved), Colin winkingly held his axe up to the amp before falling to the floor in convulsions. My best photo of the night. Check ‘em all out below. CLICK TO ENLARGE.


You’re probably ready to hear some MP3s now…

The Decemberists – “The Soldiering Life”
The Decemberists – “Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect”
The Decemberists – “Shiny”

Also, click here to get an MP3 of Colin covering Morrissey’s “Everyday Is Like Sunday” at a homecoming gig in Portland two years ago.

I should also mention Dios opened, and while I missed their set, I bought the band’s excellent new CD from their helpful Mercury merch guy. Jinners recommended these guys back in December. Here’s two new MP3s:

Dios – “Starting Five”
Dios – “The Uncertainty Of How Things Are”

Don’t worry, I won’t spin The Tain on Sunday. It’s more of listen-on-your-iPod-while-walking-to-the-supermarket experience.

Eliza and I want The Decemberists to play at our wedding. Can anyone make that happen? E-mail me.

Oh, and here’s Eliza’s review of the show, submitted via e-mail:

“An excellent performance! Colin Meloy is a hottie. While everyone else was screaming for him to play their favorite songs, I had to restrain myself from yelling, ‘Take your shirt off!’ At one point during their last song the band went nuts and starting banging and abusing their instruments, creating a cacophony of deranged and beautiful music. I was hypnotized by the sight of Colin’s boxer shorts peeking out from above the waistline of his Levi’s. It was definitely one of the most entertaining and exciting shows I’ve been to in a long while, and not just because I enjoyed staring at Colin’s beautiful face, I swear.”

The Decemberists play Bowery Ballroom tonight. I think it’s sold out.