Monday, January 30, 2006

I [Heart] Colin.... Meloy, that is

Last Saturday night, the Decemberist came to the Birchmere. Yep, Colin Meloy came back to DC to play a solo show with opening act Laura Veirs.

Sorry to say, I am not a fan of Ms. Veirs. I lost all confidence in her songwriting ability when she rhymed "raft for one" with "bum, bum, bum." It went downhill from there. She had a peculiar way of swaying from side to side very quickly and nervously- coupled with her black stockings and maryjanes, her mannerisms and timid "thanks" caused her to come off as a nervous seven year-old giving a concert for Mommy and Daddy's dinnerguests. Luckily, the Object of My Affection was with me and saved the opening act by having brought a flask filled to the brim with vodka. He did complain that watching Ms. Veirs was only slightly more exciting than watching old oatmeal congeal. In High Fidelity, Rob Gordon ponders "which came first, the music or the misery?" Listening to Ms. Veirs wail in a fashion reminiscent of singing that her "parents helped us" for three minutes, I think we have a clear answer of which came first.

And then... Colin Meloy came out! Yay! He asked us to imagine we were just hanging out around the campfire, which was fine by me (why yes, that's me shouting "kumbayah!" on the NPR webcast. ), and then sang to us- from the treacly maudlin song about having a baby, to the cheerfully suicidal, to the mourning song for a bicycle (which all of us DCists can commiserate with). Meloy imbues his shows with a sense of the theatrical, and Saturday was no exception; he intoduced him to his compatriots for the evening- a series of props including a skull named Cheryl and a boat named Maya Angelou. Generally Decemberists songs have a historical sea-shanty feel to them, but for his solo show, Meloy stayed closer to the present with some of songs that audiences may be less familiar with- The Gymnast and Here I Dreamt I was an Architect (revealing at the end that the song is secretly Fleetwood Mac's Dreams in disguise). He couldn't stay away from the history for long; much to my delight, he premiered a song about the Shankhill Butchers. Although the song was reminiscent of A Cautionary Tale from the Decemberists first full length album, he can be forgiven since no other artist today can evoke horror stories in quite the insouciantly mischievous manner that Meloy can. In The Engine Driver, Meloy sings that he is a "writer of fictions"; as a listener, you will give him whatever it takes to keep telling his stories.

For his last song, he gave us the sublime- oh, yes, that's right, California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade, a ten-minute song that goes from lazy meandering along the California coast to championing a society for bed-wetters and ambulance chasers. When the Decemberists last rolled into town last September at the 9:30 Club, I begged them to play the song. It's not like they were having a problem playing long songs... they played both the 17 minute Tain (a heavy metal epic based on an Eighth-century Celtic folktale) and the nine or so minute Mariner's Revenge Song. I swear, and people who attended the concert will back me up, that Colin Meloy looked at me and shook his head, no. After crying for a few days, I swore I would never talk to Colin Meloy again. I'm sure he lost a lot of sleep. Well, this time I begged, (again, I'm ashamed to say, that's me with the piteously cracking voice on the webcast) rather pitifully and Mr. Meloy kindly acquiesced with a dramatically beautiful solo rendition. Then, he came out for an encore and played my other favorite Decemberists song, Red Right Ankle. And so Colin Meloy can sleep soundly, knowing he is back in my good graces. And yes, I did send him a thank you e-mail in which I noted that, forthwith, I will behave at his concerts. So he should come back very, very soon, and you should all go.

By the way, for the record, I was not the one who called for Freebird. I will actually countenance Mr. Meloy's proposed group, Musicians Against the Calling of Freebird.


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