The Decemberists at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles, October 19, 2009 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Decemberists

The Decemberists at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles, October 19th, 2009

Nov 02, 2009 Web Exclusive Photography by Michele Yamamoto Bookmark and Share


UCLA’s Royce Hall is a beautiful little venue. Ornately decorated, acoustically lush and comfortable in size, the theater lends itself well to all manner of performances. And on October 19th, Portland’s The Decemberists brought their fun blur of theater and rock show to the hall.

The band played through their recent album Hazards in Love in perfect sync with an animated visual projected onto a white screen adorning the back of the stage. The band has been doing double duty on this “A Short Fazed Hovel” tour, with the Hazards set followed by a second set culled from other Decemberists material. And each tour date has provided quite a show, but the strong theatrical undertones resonating from every part of this particular venue and this particular performance was stunning. Gold leaves tumbled down the darkened screen as keyboardist Jenny Conlee walked onto the stage to begin the album’s ambient prelude.

The visuals were incredibly effective, at times a simple experiment with light and shapes, and at others, a quickly assembled collage of objects and styles. Perhaps the one visual combination most etched into my mind is that of opening for “The Queen’s Rebuke.” One arm extended into the air, My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden marched slowly to the front of the stage, the screen displaying a forest of arms swaying about against a black background. Her warm vocals played nicely against the slow and deliberate psychedelic lilt of the band.

The close of Hazards was met instantly with a well-deserved standing ovation. Having seen this set on three other dates of the tour, this one was, without a doubt, the most effective and consummate delivery.

The second set was fun and impractical. While winding through perennial favorites such as “Chimbley Sweep” and “Billy Liar,” the band took time for a guitar-off right in front of the first row and executed a Chinese fire drill of sorts as they scrambled around with one another’s instruments. The set also included the likes “The Crane Wife 1 and 2,” “Sons and Daughters,” “Everything I Do, Nothing Seems to Turn Out Right,” and “O Valencia!” In one way or another, The Decemberists made each song young again.

Being their last U.S. date for some time, they kept things “a little loose,” asking the audience to indulge their thank you’s and playfully exhausted noodling before they skip off to some other continent in want of theirs.

I said it once in an earlier review and never has it been more true than for this show: “As anyone who has been to a Decemberists show can testify, a show is certainly ensured.”




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