Ever since my first ever best friend showed me “We Both Go Down Together” when I was thirteen, I’ve been swooning over pretty much every song that The Decemberists has ever put out. There’s just something about Colin Meloy’s folksy vocals singing stories about ghosts, whales, and women from long ago that gets me every time. So, naturally, seeing those songs performed live is one of my favorite things to do.
The opening act, Gaelynn Lea, was awesome to say the very least. I had seen her Tiny Desk Concert performance circulating around the internet about a year ago and found out we have some mutual friends. So, when I was told that she would be opening I couldn’t have been more excited. There are some shows I go to where, no matter how good the opening act is, all I can think about is how much I want to hear the headliners play. But not this time. Gaelynn’s first song, “The Long Way Around,” literally brought me to tears, and I could have listened for hours. After about twenty minutes, though, she left the stage and setup for The Decemberists began.
Each time a new Decemberists album is released I, for some foolish reason, don’t listen to it for months and then feel like I missed out on the party. But not this time! “I’ll Be Your Girl,” The Decemberists newest album, came out less than a month ago. I made sure to “study up” and listen to it many times through so I wouldn’t be left unfamiliar with songs during their live show… and I’m glad I did! Their set was pretty well balanced but definitely included lots of material from this most recent album, including set opener and crowd favorite “Everything Is Awful.” That first song ended with confetti being cannoned into the crowd, so you can say that the show began with a bang.
Colin Meloy’s banter with the crowd was genuine and clearly not just the same few lines he had been saying at every city so far. He asked which of our two twin cities was better and came to the conclusion that St. Paul was the one to watch out for. He also confessed that growing up, he thought that Minneapolis was where all good music came from (which honestly doesn’t sound wrong to me…) and that it’s always a true honor to play here. The entire show was played in front of a backdrop that mimicked their most recent album’s cover- an old time-y skull with glowing swirly eyes. Some set highlights were throwback “Of Angels and Angles,” the live debut of “Starwatcher,” and perfect sing-along song “We All Die Young.”
For the (first) encore, he brought out opener Gaelynn Lea to play violin on Rusalka, Rusalka / The Wild Rushes, which was an incredibly moving gesture for a beautiful pair of songs. Next up was Ben Franklin’s song, which was genuinely hilarious, and most recent title track “I’ll Be Your Girl.” The band then left the stage once again, only to come back once more to cover the Replacements by playing “Skyway” and then, of course, “The Mariners Revenge Song.”
Colin first explained to the crowd that during this song, they would all need to scream like being swallowed by a whale and had everyone go through a few practice runs of yelling with fear. He also explained what exactly a whale is, since Minnesota is landlocked and all. Everyone sang along and due to the fearful screams being so realistic, a giant inflatable whale with Sailor Jerry-esque markings all over it emerged from backstage and was bopped back and forth around the crowd.
The band once again thanked the crowd and left the stage, for real this time. But not for long, because sold out show number two at the Palace Theatre is tonight!
Photo Credit: Holly Andres