“We apologize for ruining indie rock,” Colin Meloy announced as the band took the stage last night at House of Blues Boston. They were referring, of course, to a recent article in The Phoenix, which blamed The Decemberists as the destroyers of all that was good and perfect in the land of indie-ness. The crowd hooted and hollered their approval, not of Luke O’Neil’s rant against this quietly brilliant band of Portlanders, but of Mr. Meloy’s playful indifference to the negativity of the critic. And why should he care? Meloy and Co. have the #1 album on the Billboard 200 and were playing the second of two sold out shows at Boston’s House of Blues. So, while Mr. Meloy’s stomach flu may have cut the concert short and removed a bit of the intensity of his performance, it in no way challenged these guys’ status as the kings of indie rock.
The band opened with The Sporting Life off of 2005’s “Picaresque,” before diving headfirst into “The King Is Dead” with Calamity Song, Down By The Water, and Rise To Me. They dipped their feet back into “Picaresque” one more time with The Bagman’s Gambit, after which they turned things up about twenty notches. Won’t Want For Love, a churning and pulsating rocker of 2009’s “The Hazards Of Love” was followed up by The Island – the 12 minute mini opera from 2006’s “The Crane Wife.”
The show continued as the band played a bunch more tracks off “The King Is Dead” with a few others sprinkled in. For the first encore, we were treated to the epically fun The Mariner’s Revenge Song, a hilarious and haunting tale of the two sailors who survived when a whale made lunch of their ship. Chris Funk used an audience-made cut out whale as the signal for the crowd to howl to indicate being swallowed alive by the beast, before falling dead to the floor of the stage with the rest of his bandmates.
The band closed out the show with June Hymn, a song which, despite the piles and piles of snow outside, lent a bit of warmth to us concert-goers; as if the song was a harbinger of the coming summertime.
The songs were performed impeccably, and the band was at the top of their game, infusing their songs with acting, comedy, and as much intensity as they could muster up. But of course that was to be expected. Because when big label bands fail, and radio music sounds empty and plastic, bands like The Decemberists continue to play and perform meaningful, inspiring, and unbelievably good rock music. They may be more mainstream now, but this quintet of musicians from Portland, Oregon hasn’t changed a thing. It’s the rest of the world that has come to accept these alternative bands as the best songwriters, musicians, and performers out there. It’s mainstream pop-rock that died – indie has only taken its place.
Back in 2003, Mr. Meloy sang “I was meant for the stage.” He certainly was; it’s just taken the rest of the world eight years to figure that out.