Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Decemberists/Webster Hall/Sept. 27, 2004

The Decemberists/Webster Hall/27 September 2004

Reviewed by Tim Carpenter

Yes, yes, Colin Meloy's character-driven songs are brainy, English-lit-major-type stuff. And his voice is truly a take-it-or-leave-it instrument. But the tunes are just so damn good. Hooks out the wazoo. And that's why the 35-and-under crowd at Webster Hall had no problem bobbing along to nearly every offering, and even singing along with references to Marcel Duchamp and Celtic poems circa 700 AD.

The set balanced the two Decemberist LPs nearly evenly and showcased two new songs. The more memorable was "The Sporting Life," which tells a tale of youthful humiliation on the athletic field to a drum/bass line stolen from Iggy's "Lust for Life." Highlights from the catalog were a dramatic "Odalisque;" lovely, plaintive takes on "Grace Cathedral Hill" and "Clementine;" high-energy hoe-downs on "Billy Liar" and "The Chimbley Sweep;" and the set-closing "I Was Meant for the Stage," a song which achieved a certain notoriety when it made its way into Kiki & Herb's final show at Carnegie Hall last week. The biggest crowd pleaser: a solo acoustic guitar reading of the outstanding "Red Right Ankle."

The band sounded more muscular than they did a couple of months ago at the Bowery Ballroom, although the mix was also a bit more muddy. No major complaints, though, and it's hard to hold every venue to the Bowery's standard for sound. Bottom line: If you dig the D-bists (and there are surely smart music fans that don't), the show was immensely
satisfying and a clear signal of a band that's capable of even bigger and better things.