Tuesday night, September 29th, WTTS presented a show from The Decemberists at the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre. Earlier that day they stopped by Sun King Studio 92 powered by Klipsch Audio; you can find that performance here. English singer-songwriter Olivia Chaney opened for The Decemberists’ big return to Indy. The band was booked to play a show in Indianapolis in August of 2011, but unfortunately had to cancel due to lead singer Colin Meloy’s voice being damaged.
In fact, the first thing Meloy did when he took the stage alone was utter a sincere apology and express excitement to be here to make it up to their Indianapolis audience. He then played an acoustic, solo version of their appropriately titled, “The Apology Song” to begin the evening on such a wonderfully humble note. The band soon joined him on stage and the evening took off.
As the rest of the band enters, the stage suddenly changes. Their latest album, What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World’s cover artwork comes down in layers of sheets that look like a quilt, adding to the folk feel of the evening. Even the amps on stage had shapes from the album cover painted to continue the theme. The band members all look very professional, wearing dresses, jackets, vests, and ties. It gives off the impression that they both take their jobs seriously and respect their audiences and that’s admirable.
The Decemberists are known for their incredible storytelling abilities in their songwriting, but that tradition carried to the stage as well. Colin told the audience that “Calamity Song” was originally written as a song to get his son, Hank, to eat his oatmeal. During “Calamity Song” the seated crowd was moved to stand and they didn’t sit again for the remainder of the show; they were unable to cease dancing and it was infectious.
The 5-part band was joined by two backup vocalists on stage who did so much more than sing (tambourine, shakers, mandolin, and even a little drumming). The bass player, Nate Query, toggled between an electric and stand-up double bass. Jenny Conlee is known for her diverse talents in organ, accordion, keys, and synthesizer. Needless to say (but we’ll say it anyway) this band is talented. Highlights of the night included “The Crane Wife 3,” “Make You Better,” “Down By The Water,” and the set’s closing song, “The Chimbley Sweep.”
“The Chimbley Sweep” and a couple other songs featured a break in the song for Colin and the band to absolutely entertain the audience in every sense of the word. He conducted a three-part crowd interactive singing session filled with ‘bas’ and ‘wees’ and ‘oos’. Later, he conducted the band with his hands in an improvisatory symphony that had the crowd roaring. The band played a six-song encore made up entirely of songs from their fifth album, “The Hazards of Love” before coming out for a second. This time, they played “Of Angels and Angles” and the epic “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.” This incredible story of a song included many instruments, voices, characters, and “screaming like you’re being eaten by a whale.” Yes, that’s what Colin asked the crowd to do on cue. And they did. The crowd sang along and danced shamelessly for The Decemberists. Their fans are passionate and awe-struck, as one should be after seeing a show like this.