Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Decemberists: Live in Vienna

With Colin Meloy @ Co. coming to Jersey City's Landmark Loew's Theatre next week, it seemed a fine time to introduce fellow Decemberists fan and RIB's brand new foreign correspondent (no kidding), the delightful and talented Moni. Moni was born and raised in Salzburg, Austria, but spends a lot of time in the U.S. stalking Ken Stringfellow and The Long Winters. She also attended Bowling Green and got a master's in music history. She now lives in Vienna, working as a secretary for the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. She caught The Decemberists last month and filed this review - plus Flickr photos (just click the image below) - for your reading pleasure.

The Decemberists@Flex, Feb. 19, 2007Band: The Decemberists
Date: 02/19/07
Venue: Flex, Vienna, Austria.
Rating: 5/5

The Flex in Vienna, a popular DJ club, is a completely impractical place for a live show. It's basically a long, dark tube, so be prepared to bring your binoculars when the concert—like this one—is sold out and you walk in relatively late. Luckily, I snuck in at just the right time to claim a spot in the second row.

I don't really want to lose too many words on the support act, Lavender Diamond. Suffice to say their music is actually pretty good, but the front lady has an insufferable hippie-thing going on. When the keyboard player cut his finger, she introduced every song by calling "more blood!" Oh how we laughed.

Colin Meloy, looking like your favourite English teacher, came onstage for a short solo rendition of Ultravox's "Vienna", before finally opening the set with "The Crane Wife 3". The band is tight at all times, Colin's voice is spot-on.

I have seen the Decemberists only once so far, at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle in 2003. Above all, I remember Colin rolling on the floor during the outro of "I Was Meant For the Stage". The biggest question on my mind going into to The Flex was how would they bring their elaborate musical arrangements to the stage. They are not going to bring a French horn ensemble, right? Well they did not, and they didn't need to. A battery of string instruments, a xylophone and a hurdy-gurdy were sufficient to never make you feel that there is something missing from the music. It's all there, just more lively, and more intense.

The heart- and gut-wrenching "The Island" probably left me with the biggest impression. After a very quiet rendition of "The Shankill Butchers", the hit-single double "O Valencia" and "16 Military Wives" gives way to a neat little moshpit in the back of the room.

Lavender Diamond are allowed back on stage for the last song before the encore, "Sons and Daughters". Colin conducts the audience through the la-de-daah-chorus of "16 Military Wives", sends his drummer and his bassist crowdsurfing and goes for a guitar-solo duel with Chris Funk (it's a tie!) during a neverending version of "Chimbley Sweep". And he's having fun, just like the audience and the rest of the band.

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