For a band who I'd tagged with the 'bookish geek who gets a wedgie after school' mental impression, Colin Meloy and the rest of The Decemberists sure changed my perceptions. Vaguely familiar with their literary bent and fondness for ornate pop, I was very surprised with the heavy riffage that the band cranked out during their first set, which comprised the Hazards of Love record in its entirety. The progression from the scholarly treatise of "Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect" to the pulsing monster of "Won't Want For Love (Margaret In The Taiga)" was utterly unpredictable. Extras Becky Stark and Shara Worden really made this material shine, in resplendent white winged dress and silver tights, respectively. Worden in particular hit some Grace Slick moments in "Repaid," while Stark was a beguiling creature, shimmering in white and cherubic in voice. Once the material was over and the first set came to a close, after a short break Meloy delved into some of the back catalog and filled the second hour with a bit of impromptu fun, first moving out to the edge of the stage and playing acoustic guitar, then hopping down and making an exchange with a front fan- her camera for his guitar, filling her memory card and providing choice Facebook fodder for the next upload session. Not to be outdone, Chris Funk lured his own fan/victim on stage and slung his Gibson SG over his shoulder. The clueless punter stood still until Chris took a beer bottle and gave some clues as to how to produce a righteous avalanche of slide guitar noise. Drummer John Moen completed the scene by administering a lap dance. Yep, can't make this up; the seemingly serious men in suits and ties can rock and do have a sense of humor.
Opener Robyn Hitchcock was over the laryngitis which cancelled his Boston date a few weeks ago, and played a few cuts of his new record Goodnight Oslo to a fairly empty/fashionably late amphitheater (the curse of the opening band), despite the presence of 3/5ths of REM (Peter Buck, Bill Rieflin, and Scott McCaughey). Still fresh from the mind-bendingly good I Often Dream Of Trains tour/retrospective, they opened with that title cut, a lovely waltz into the misty old English times, befitting the cold and damp evening. Byrdsian "Hurry For The Sky" was a perfect match for Buck's 12 string serenades, and Meloy joined in for the bubbly "Saturday Groovers." It's a bit of a shame that a major talent like Hitchcock got just a scant thirty minutes but I think he made more than a few fans before his time was up.
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