Some guy wrote a song once … something about being meant for the stage … one of the lines says, “And as I take my final bow / was there ever any doubt?” Well, that guy rocked the stage at the Wiltern last night, and proved to a huge crowd that he is, in fact, meant for the stage. (Not that he needed to prove it, but it was fun to know.)
The line for the show was long enough to go down a block of Wilshire, around the corner, and down about three more blocks on Oxford, but somehow everyone fit into the Wiltern with room to spare. It’s a beautiful old theater, with seats on the balcony and sloped tiered standing space on the lower level. The interior is all art-decoed up, and the tiers were sloped enough that if you stood on the second tier (like me) you got a great view of the whole show without having to stand on tiptoe. The band had sort of a minimalist theme going, and the set was only a big Japanese-inspired print behind them and then the lights onstage hidden in big red Chinese lanterns. It was really pretty.
I’ll say a word about Lavender Diamond before I go on. I am not familiar with them — the lead singer was very cute in her 40s torch-singer ensemble, but I could not hear her very well over the crowd. On her last song she finally gave it everything, and the song was as oddly charming as she was; but then she left the stage and I was left with no idea what 95% of the set was about. I could blame the folks behind me (who were very annoying), but there are always annoying people behind you at a concert. It was more like she didn’t use the venue’s space very well — her voice started out thin and soft, and even her instrumentalists were almost inaudible. She probably would have been really great in a small club. Listening to her stuff in my headphones as I write this, it sounds really appealing.
So, after L.D. left the stage and we listened to almost the entire recording of “Peter and the Wolf” (that’s Prokefiev we’re talking about), we finally got what everyone was stomping the floor for. The band had (sort of) old-timey clothes on; Chris Funk sported a bowler hat and the ladies dressed in vintagey dresses. Colin was dressed in jeans and an off-white suit jacket; I believe he even had a red tie on. They played a setlist which I cannot reproduce, because I wasn’t there to write stuff down (oddly enough). I can say offhand that they played (not in this order):
The Crane Wife (1&2)
Shankill Butchers (which they played under a red stage light)
The Perfect Crime (2)
The Crane Wife (3)
Los Angeles, I’m Yours (crowd favorite, of course)
We Both Go Down Together
Song for Myla Goldberg
and ended with Sons & Daughters.
The encore was a shout-out to me, of course (heh); they did The Culling Of the Fold and 16 Military Wives.
This was my first full-on Decemberists show. I saw Colin when he toured solo awhile back, and I really liked it, but the whole band together was something to see. They were having a good time together. It made me (briefly) want to learn to play the accordion and organ and violin so that I could be part of an enterprise that seemed so joyful and powerful.
And that wasn’t even the best part, because in my opinion, they also wanted us to have fun. I’ve been to some awful concerts, and I’ve been to ones where the band seems to be happy, but I haven’t ever been to one that seemed so invested in our happiness. Colin said that he thought it was great that we were all singing along, but we shouldn’t do it without warming up; so the whole theater sang scales to the tune of, “This is a wonderful show ….”
And it was. He even divided up the audience into three parts so we could sing a round to the end of “16 Military Wives,” while he marched along and saluted. And he even got ahold of someone from the front row’s cellphone, dialed it up, and sang the last quarter of “Culling” to some very surprised person on the other end of the line. It was a fine experience. They played like their hearts were in it, not like it was just the cold exchange of money for musical services. Sure, it was cheesy in a way, but boy, it was joyful. I was glad to be there. I’d like to send them a thank-you card. Maybe I will.
The Decemberists – Tour