Monday, July 9, 2007

Offseason report: The Decemberists w/ the L.A. Philharmonic @ The Hollywood Bowl, 07-07-07

Saturday night's show was the Decemberists "Stop Making Sense" moment: A widely popular indie band using extra musicians (in this case, the L.A. Philharmonic) to make their big, sweeping songs even bigger. Frontman Colin Meloy even looked a bit like Talking Heads leader David Byrne in his cream suit with white sneakers — Onitsuka Tigers, to be exact.

Meloy even seemed to mimic Byrne's jog around the "Stop Making Sense" stage on "Life During Wartime" when he ran along the low semicircle wall that separates the first few rows from the rest of the audience during the "Wartime"-influenced "The Prefect Crime."

But the Decemberists didn't take full advantage of the moment. While the set always captivated, it was ultimately uneven. Some of the songs truly soared in their new form, while others came out too subtle considering the size of the L.A. Phil and the fact that the Decemberists got to the stage because of their sweeping style.

The restrained sound worked wonderfully on opener "The Crane Wife 1 and 2," "We Both Go Down Together" and the closer "I was Meant for the Stage." But the explosion that seemed destined to come on the intense "The Infanta" and "The Bagman's Gambit" never did.

The Philharmonic didn't really roar until "Odalisque," a song from the Decemberists first album, and it proved to be one of the best from the set along with the five-part, 18-minute-long "The Tain."

The unevenness certainly wasn't due to nerves. Meloy played with the confidence of a songwriter who was finally hearing his songs played the same way they sounded in his head. And maybe that's the best way to look at the show. If the Decemberists were given all the money, instruments and time in the world, this is how their songs would sound.

The Decemberists — Odalisque (MP3)


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