The Decemberists / July 16, 2007 / New York (Central Park SummerStage)
The Decemberists' sold-out show at Central Park's SummerStage spoke to just how big the theatrical pop group has grown. True, they did make the move to a major label (Capitol, who released 2006's "TheThe Decemberists' sold-out show at Central Park's SummerStage spoke to just how big the theatrical pop group has grown. True, they did make the move to a major label (Capitol, who released 2006's "The Crane Wife"), and of course there was that very public guitar battle with Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central. But on July 16, not only did frontman Colin Meloy have the crowd almost uncomfortably worked up over a song about the belly of a whale, he also managed to command the entire floor to literally drop to the ground with a single wave of his hand. That's star power right there, folks.
Although the Decemberists are currently playing a number of orchestra-backed dates this summer, their Central Park set featured just the basic core five-piece. Starting out, appropriately, with the summer anthem "July, July," from the group jubilantly weaved its way through folk pop-driven, literate narratives about sea captains, criminals and, well, whales.
"This song is about dying at sea," Meloy quipped before the somber, acoustic "From My Own True Love," adding with a laugh, "We were never really meant for summer festivals." Regardless, the fuzzed-out guitar of the new album's" "The Perfect Crime No. 2" and the gently lulling, accordion-laced "The Engine Driver" from 2005's "Picaresque" were perfectly suited for the cool, crisp night.
The epic three-part murder tale "The Island" found the band jamming together at its best, with Meloy closing out the song solo onstage. The exuberant "O Valencia!" brought with it a lively energy before the main set concluded with the soft and sweet "Sons and Daughters."
"I didn't know we had so much set time," Meloy noted before the extended encore, having previously mentioned the band's limited time slot. From there he offered up an intimate take on "Red Right Ankle," from 2003's "Her Majesty," followed by the pleasantly rollicking "Oceanside" from the "5 Songs" EP.
The encore rounded out with "The Chimbley Sweep," and, as the song faded out, Meloy went around stage, touching all the band members and putting them to sleep. As noted above, he then instructed the audience to follow suit, and they happily obliged and took a seat on the ground.
For the final song, the band launched into everyone's favorite (scratch that -- only?) song about whale innards, "The Mariner's Revenge Song." Odd, yes, but you have to hand it to the band -- only the Decemberists could pull something like that off.
Here is the Decemberists' set list:
"The Perfect Crime No. 2"
"The Sporting Line"
"From My Own True Love"
"The Engine Driver"
"The Crane Wife 3"
"Sons and Daughters"
"Red Right Ankle"
"The Chimbley Sweep"
"The Mariner's Revenge Song"