Live Review: The Decemberists at Manchester Academy – 10/03/11

The Decemberists, an indie rock quintet hailing from Portland, Oregon, have been rightly garnering plenty of hype recently, be it due to their exquisite new album ‘The King is Dead’, which takes them back to their American folk roots, or due to their majestically manic live performances so far on their first full UK tour since 2007.  The enormous Manchester Academy 1, needless to say, was sold out months before the gig even took place.

Having eschewed the previous style of their ‘British folk rock’ concept album The Hazards of Love in favour of a more Bob Dylan-esque, country, blues and folk influence, the band kept things similarly simple with their approach to the show. With plenty of banter with the crowd, particularly frontman Meloy’s inability to understand the local accent, alongside numerous jokes about American politics, The Decemberists were determined not to take themselves too seriously.

From the very beginning the musicianship was superb, with band members swapping between numerous instruments during songs with consummate ease – an absoulte joy to watch. The crowd itself was wonderfully varied in age, yet many knew every single word to the wide variety of songs thrown at them by lead singer Colin Meloy.

Highlights of the night included the inclusion of The Crane Wife in its [three-part] entirety, taken from the band’s concept album centred around a Japanese folk tale of the same name, the hilarious Mariner’s Revenge Song (where all audience members were required to make a noise as if they were being eaten by a whale as the band slowly collapsed on stage) and covers of ‘Dirty Old Town’ by the Pogues and ‘Ask’ by the Smiths, upon which Meloy ended the second and final encore.  Songs from the new album ‘The King is Dead’, which debuted in the American Billboard charts at #1, also failed to disappoint and often garnered the best crowd reactions of the night.


Harriet Brampton & Ben McCabe

…Harriet has been listening to: Bright Eyes – ‘Shell Games’…

…Ben has been listening to: The Decemberists – ‘June Hymn’…



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