It was business as usual for the Portland folk-rockers on the second of three nights at New York's Beacon Theatre, as well as the second date of their two-month tour of the U.S. and Europe. And judging by the reactions of adoring fans following the band's hour-and-a-half show, business is good -- exceptionally good.
Those in attendance received all sides of the Decemberists -- every one of the band's six LPs were represented in some way, and all aspects of the group's musical repertoire was featured, from the sparse acoustic charm of "Red Right Ankle" and the seldom-played "California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade" to the hard-rocking "Won't Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)," with Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins fruitfully filling the role formerly held by Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark.
Video: The Decemberists, "Red Right Ankle," Beacon Theatre, 1/25/11
"The King is Dead" was certainly not underrepresented, with eight tracks finding their way into the setlist -- "Rise to Me" and "Dear Avery" being the only omissions. Watkins was a formidable addition to the quintet, her fiddle best resonating on the country-western feel of "All Arise!"
Although the new tunage pleased, the Decemberists were at their best on some of the band's beloved past numbers. "We're going down the rabbit hole," Meloy announced before breaking into the entire "The Crane Wife" song cycle from 2006's album of the same name. Later, he led the crowd in a singalong of 2005's "16 Military Wives."
"You guys are all unemployed musical theater actors, aren't you?" Meloy asked later. Prompting the audience to by a show of hands denote whether or not they were, the bespectacled frontman smiled wryly. "That's a pretty good cross section. More than you'd see at a Kings of Leon concert."
After treating the audience to a first rousing encore of "The Chimbley Sweep" and "The Mariner's Revenge Song," the band returned a second time to cap off the night with new song "June Hymn." The tune, a soothing, soaring celebration of the transition between spring and summer, warmed the crowd enough to face the cold winter facing them outside, thoughts of June weather in their hearts.
Portland's favorite sons and daughters soon retreated backstage, the prospect of an occupied Wednesday beckoning. After all, Beacon night three still loomed.