In October of 2006, I documented the first two nights of The Decemberists' Rout Of The Patagons tour in their backyard of Portland Oregon. For no real reason at all, I rode the #8 Empire Builder train from Seattle to Chicago, a 45-hour trek, just to see The Decemberists at the Riviera Theatre. It has been two-years since I lived in the windy, and when I walked into the building I noticed Joe Shanahan, owner of the world famous cabaret Metro and thought, "shit, where the hell am I?" That odd feeling lingered inside my stoned mind throughout the somnolent set.
As the lights dimmed the loudspeakers blasted the Soviet National Anthem, a song that I only knew from the horrific rendition sung by WWE Hall Of Fame wreslter Nikolai Volkov, who along with his partner The Iron Sheik, were defeated by the U.S. Express (Barry Whindam and Mike Rotundo) at the first WrestleMania. Can someone tell me where the hell I am?
The boys and girl were dressed in much brighter attire than their previous carnival costumes which apparently were so 2006. I was saddened not to see the sparkling face of utility ace Lisa Mollinaro, who unfortunately became yet another name in the guest book of Decemberists exes, like That Dog talent Petra Hayden.
While dragging through the majority of The Crane Wife and conspicuously avoiding Her Majesty The Decemberists, the PDX players hammered home some real dazzling tricks like "Clementine," "Shiny," and the zestful plunge of "The Mariner's Revenge Song." One can never be eaten by a whale enough in one's lifetime. That's what my dead Uncle Carla used to say before a 19-foot Mako shark chomped his head clear off his neck, at that horrific Anfinsen family reunion of 1992. Our vapid event's sole bright spot came through the solo strum of Meloy who belted out "Baby Song (Weird & Wonderful)" that was worth the price of admission.
The night felt drowsy, void of energy, and flat like a nine-year old girl. Once lightning did strike, towards the second helping of the sleepy set, the writer of fiction Mr. Meloy seemed to forget his best lines as if he were Robert Smith, only Meloy couldn't hide his blunders as well as the great goth.
At times Meloy steered his ship of gypsies with the love and warmth of say Joseph Goebbels or Gengis Kahn, possibly the cause of such a heavy musician turnover, as the creative front man pointed and directed rather than maximize his own genius. Meloy even remarked about a recent dream where he found himself bickering with his current band mates and something about a bunny with an external heart. Watch out Funk or Connelly, or you may be bagging groceries for Courtney Taylor-Taylor-Taylor-Taylor at Food Fight! in Portland soon enough.
The crowd were a stale batch of cement cookies as well, only coming to life when prompted by Meloy, who at one point during the amaranthine refrain of "16 Military Wives," which gently drained into an impromptu "Chicago Blues" riff, politely asked the mass of corpses "will you applaud for us please?" Where the hell was I that Colin Meloy needed to ask 2,500 people to show him love?
It was possibly the twentieth time that this fan has seen The Decemberists perform, and trust, it simply wasn't their best.
+ + + +
Thursday April 19, 2007
Riviera Theatre, Chicago
"The Crane Wife"
"16 Military Wives"
"Sons & Daughters"
"Baby Song (Weird & Wonderful)"
"The Mariner's Revenge Song"
*photo by Alicia J. Rose Photography