Occasionally, I am reminded that I should see as many live shows as I possibly can. I got another of those reminders last night when a friend asked me to go see The Decemberists. I am familiar with the band, but wouldn't call myself a fan.
I knew there was a new album, but I hadn't heard it. I was a bit skeptical when I read yesterday that it was a concept album that told a story in what was essentially one long song broken into parts. Lots of bands have tried similar gimmicks, and the results are notoriously spotty. One of my favorite all-time bands, The Kinks, made a couple of these unfortunate forays. Not an auspicious sign heading in.
The band came on stage and started at the beginning of the album. The stopped only after they had played the entire album in order. It was absolutely fantastic. They told a fairy tale type story that was also classic tragedy. Different characters were represented by different singers and different styles of music. I thought back to seeing Peter and the Wolf in elementary school, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The performances were incredible, and the singers recruited to play the female parts were outstanding.
Then the band took a break. When they returned, they played many of the indie/folk/pop songs that made the band (somewhat anyway) famous. It was like a completely different show. The band bantered with the audience, told jokes, organized a giant sing-along (in which the balcony sang the bass part), and staged a reproduction of Lawrence of Arabia. It was all great fun, and it felt as loose and chaotic as the first set was structured. The women from the first set returned to the stage in the last song before the encore to do a cover of Heart's "Crazy On You."
You never know when you might see a show that will stick with you for awhile. That's you, me and everyone else should remember to take every opportunity we get to see live music.