Rock City, Nottingham, 11/11/2018
published: 24 /
David Goodwin watches American folk/indie rock band the Decemberists play a spellbinding set at Rock City in Nottingham
2007 apparently was the last time the band the Decemmberists last graced the legendary Rock City in Nottingham. The American folk/indie rock band from Portland, Oregon consists of Colin Meloy (lead vocals, guitar, principal songwriter), Chris Funk (guitar, multi-instrumentalist), Jenny Conlee (piano, keyboards), Nate Query (bass), and John Moen (drums), and is joined by a plethora of other musicians for their well-documented live stage acts. You have to go back even further for their debut EP, '5 Songs', which was self-released in 2001. Their eighth and latest full-length album 'I'll Be Your Girl' was released in March this year and is the band's fifth record with the Capitol label. Upon it they explore a new sound with a new producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Lana del Rey) embracing influences such as Roxy Music and New Order in a bid to break away from their folk style releases to date.
Audience participation is a big part of their live performances with re-enactments of sea battles and other centuries old events, typically of regional interest. They are not averse to selecting members of the crowd for certain character input as is the case tonight here in an unusually cool Rock City. I say 'cool' because this place is usually dripping in sweat and beer but tonight it seems rather chilled.
By the time the support act - Hop Along - get on to the stage the venue is almost to its capacity, and by the time the main act come on it is full to the brim having sold out some weeks before. The array of concert-goers is a sight to savour, a crowd made up of all ages.
As I make my way to the pit and back a few times for the photos, I spy '1920's Man', a chap of slight make up with greased back hair and a handle bar moustache enjoying the merriment. I will go on that night to spy him on several more occasions, each time a little tipsier than the last.
There is a great welcome from the crowd when the Decembrists appear right on time and they tuck straight into 'California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade', 'The Soldiering Life' and 'Sucker's Prayer' before Meloy, the Decemberists' glorious leader, informs us that he has enjoyed coming back to Nottingham and that he went to see The Story of Robin Hood as he did last time he came but it had shut down. The band themselves seem to be in really good mischievous spirits despite the travel, and it doesn't take Meloy long to discover the banter and rivalry between Nottingham and its more inferior neighbour across the M1 after asking members of the front row where they are from.
What is a wonder to behold this night though is the tightness of the band, each member knowing when the right time to come in is. Their ability to ad-lib without any-one knowing is also brilliant. Meloy's storytelling and unique voice and his wit and banter though are the treat for me along with great renditions of 'Make You Better', 'Cutting Stone', 'Severed' (from the latest album ) and the quite fantastic 'Rakes Song' which with assistance from the back is studio quality. Nate Query's bass playing is also a sight for sore eyes and in places he plays it like a ukulele, while Jenny Conlees' twinkling of the ivories and general piano picking also a treat.
I had seen 1920's Man a few more times and the last is as he staggers past and literally collapses on his backside on the stairs chuckling away to himself.
The three track encore also included another of my favourites 'Don't Carry It All' along with the 'June Hymn' and 'Mariners' which includes crowd participation by screaming as loud as possible
California One/Youth and Beauty Brigade
The Soldiering Life
Make You Better
The Crane Wife 1 & 2
The Queen's Rebuke /The Crossing
The Barrow Boy
We All Die Young
The Rake's Song
O Valencia (With 'Dracula's Daughter' interlude)
'Once in My Life' (With 'Please, Please, Please…')
Don't Carry It All
The Mariner's Revenge Song
Photos by Dave Goodwin