The Decemberists / October 19, 2009 / L.A.

Sam Comen
The Decemberists perform at Royce Hall, Los Angeles, on October 19, 2009.

Since the release of prog-folk-metal rock opera "The Hazards of Love" this spring, the Portland, Ore. band has devotedly toured in its support, delighting audiences by performing the full album from start to finish. Last night (Oct. 19), the Decemberists played what was billed as the final "Hazards of Love" show to a reverential and packed house at UCLA's Royce Hall. And they did not let the final "Hazards" show go out with a whimper, premiering "Here Come The Waves," a stunning new "visualizer" of four seemlessly-sequenced psychedelic videos inspired by the album's different acts.

photos by Sam Comen

The six-piece powered confidently through the story-songs as they kept close time with the film's dramatic visual cues. Principal Decemberist Colin Meloy's vocals sounded crisp and commanding as our troubadour and the voices of the story's characters. Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond channeled the insensity of Grace Slick during her renditions of "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" and "The Queen's Rebuke/The Crossing," both of which she sings on the original recording. Becky Stark, of the Los Angeles band Lavender Diamond, provided a sometimes necessary counterpart to their overwhelming vocals with her ethereal soprano. During "The Rake's Song," nearly every member of the band walloped their own drum kit, giving the album's second half a powerful boost of emotion and energy. "The Wanting Comes In Waves (Reprise)" brought the opera to a climactic end with a crowd-pleasing crescendo of intense noise.

The films -- created individually by Guilherme Marcondes, Julia Pott, Peter Sluszka and Santa Maria -- are mostly suggestive, impressionistic, and non-literal impressions of the album's story. Instead of featuring the story's characters, the visuals function as impressionistic landscapes and atmospheres evocative of the unfolding drama like a richly imagined liquid lightshow. They feature textured, hyperrealistic floral animations that recall the imagery of Lewis Carroll, dancing heavenly bodies, and sublime experiments in lighting. The films were commissioned by Hornet, the digital production studio, and Jonathan Wells of Flux and will be available as an album-length download on iTunes on December 1.