The Decemberists

SXSW showcase reviews

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Photo by Shelley Hiam

The Decemberists

Stubb’s, March 18

Despite a tentative beginning, the Decemberists pulled off the live premiere of their magnificent fifth album, The Hazards of Love, a rock opera of sorts based on archetypal characters from the folk music lexicon. Skeptics might argue that to re-create the album live robs a performance of its own natural, organic logic and the element of surprise for an audience, yet the set came with built-in surprises, namely Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond) voicing the character of Hazards’ Forest Queen. Worden vamped it up in a flapper-style dress and Claudette Colbert bob, belting out her vignettes so powerfully as to be heard from mountaintops without the aid of a microphone. “The Rake’s Song,” villain theme of the opera’s narrative, thundered with the might of five sets of drums, singer/guitarist Colin Meloy and bassist Nate Query the only two band members that skipped the skins in favor of their own instruments. The Portland, Ore., quintet, plus Worden and singer Becky Stark, who voiced the lead character of Margaret, closed to wild approval from the audience and encored, fittingly, with “I Was Meant for the Stage.”

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