Thursday, November 09, 2006

Come and See

concert review: The Decemberists @ Kool Haus(Toronto, Ontario), November 6, 2006

I hadn't planned on going to see The Decemberists at Kool Haus but winning a guest list spot(courtesy of Chromewaves) changed my mind. Just last year The Decememberists were on an indie label and were performing at the Phoenix(which btw, was a wonderful show). They've since graduated to a major label, releasing their excellent new album "The Crane Wife". Earlier in the year I'd seen them perform on the west coast on the mainstage at the Sasquatch Festival and it was a thoroughly entertaining performance. I was still a little surprised that The Decemberists would be playing at the cavernous Kool Haus in Toronto, but if they could work the mainstage at the Sasquatch Festival, why couldn't they work a large venue like Kool Haus? Chromewaves gives a thoroughly positive front-row account of The Decemberists show at Kool Haus, and I don't doubt for a second that the show was great for all the reasons he's stated. Unfortunately, I was towards the back having showed up late to the venue[I also missed opener Alasdair Roberts].

The music, as I'd expected was awesome, from the pseudo-funky "The Perfect Crime"(during which Colin sung some lyrics of The Smiths' "The Queen Is Dead" and Colin prompted the audience to start a dance competition), to new member-in-tow Lisa Molinaro's pretty vocals on "Yankee Bayonet", and the wonderful set opener "The Crane Wife 3". "Picaresque" was represented by favourites like "Engine Driver", "We Both Go Down Together" and "16 Military Wives"(during which Colin divided the audience down the middle and had each side spouting out the song's 'La de da de da' and waving fists in the air in rebuttal to each other as if this were some sort of lunatic Congressional session). With such a good set of music offered, I still felt detached. Of course, Colin efforts to project his energy were noble, although my impression was that if you weren't up front(say, 20 persons deep from the stage), the effect of some of Colin's antics would be lost. If those giant orange spherical lanterns onstage were meant as visual enticement, well they didn't do anything for me. Maybe a light show might have drawn me more into the show. If not the most polite band I can think of right now, The Decemberists showed that they could rock out when they want to, and in particular during their encore closer they pulled out all stops as the last song broke down into a Snnic Youth-like noisy chaos. A little gimmicky perhaps[a few comments at Chromewaves' review of the show speak out about The Decemberists' gimmickery] but in my opinion it's all in good fun. I sort of wish Colin made the audience act out "The Mariner's Revenge Song" like he did at their show at the Phoenix last year, but I guess that gimmick's been put to bed. And I guess that's the point: all good gimmicks have a certain lifespan. Whatever Colin has up his sleeve for the audience whenever The Decemberists come back to town, I will be waiting in anticipation - I'm just going to make an effort to get a front-row spot for that show.

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