The Decemberists are one of my favourite, all-time bands. Hands down. Right up there.
Ever since my sister introduced me to the band in the early 2000s, I’ve devoured each of their albums voraciously, from the consistent, folk-rock-sea shanty-heavy to the increasingly country-rock to the progressively conceptual.
The Decemberist’s last visit to Melbourne several years ago was held at Billboards — a far cry from the stately (and somewhat staid) elegance of the Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall. It was also their first gig in Melbourne, in their first tour of Australia. That gig had the desperate, rowdy enjoyment of a crowd who had been waiting A LONG time to see this band live. And this beloved Oregonian troupe of bards and minstrels genuinely enjoys charging up an audience.
To see the Decemberists playing at Hamer Hall is a very different affair. With the audience in seats, the stage dressed with the illustrative artwork of Carson Ellis, it was a more dignified show that gained some reflective quietitude, but lost some raucous spunk. But the set list faithfully drew from their catalogue of works, with an emphasis on their most recent album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, but stepping back through the last two decades of songs to reward keen listeners and long-time fans.
Now, I really want to keep my heart full of love for all the humans who love the things I love, y’know? I’m super-cool with you fanning hard for these guys, and I can kind of even forgive it being a little obnoxious or intrusive; you’re just really digging it, right? There is, however, a hard line where my loving compassion for all humankind meets my intolerance of you being all up in my business. This border is most commonly visited by what I am starting to believe is the most irritatingly blithe demographic at gigs: people over 45.
Now I’m not saying that 100% of the 45+ crowd at gigs sucks; clearly they don’t and there are some sweet rockers in that group. It’s just that this is the group that in my experience has the most tendency to exhibit these behaviours:
- Use a smartphone on full brightness to check messages, film and photograph the performance or, I presume, manage their superannuation
- Clap on the one and the three
- Attempt to yell banter with the band
- Push past you to get the toilet every 9-13 minutes
This gig unfortunately had a LOT of the above behaviour. My memory and enjoyment of the gig is dramatically compromised, due to a haze of mid-level annoyance ghosting over my neurons. Being in any audience is always a lucky dip; you never know what tall/loud/abrasive/drunk/gropey idiot you’re going to be near, but this concert really prompted me to re-think my seat booking strategy (maybe pay more to be up front? Maybe that little front-side-dress circle-boxy place?).
Fortunately, the concert ended (thus ending the audience participation), but went out with their trademark high-energy encore departure song, The Mariner’s Revenge. This rollicking sea shanty drove the crowd into a fever pitch in The Decemberists’ last Australian visit, and while it didn’t hit those heights again (from both audience and band energy levels), it is a brilliant folk-rock mic drop to end a show on.