The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


The Decemberists (live in The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver)

Review Snapshot: The Decemberists are an unusual band. They have a knack for integrating theatre into their music in a way that many bands attempt to, but few actually accomplish with the same gusto as the Portland outfit. Far too often this merging of ideas tends to take away from one or the other and more often than not it is the music that suffers. The audience that packed into The Vogue Theatre in downtown Vancouver last night, however, were treated to a feast of over the top storytelling and live music.

The Cluas Verdict? 8.5 out of 10

Full Review:
An anticipative crowd queued outside the arena in the unforgiving Canadian sunshine for a good two hours before being admitted. The Vogue is an intimate venue and perfect for a band as interactive as The Decemberists and was comprised of a ground floor and balcony, both of which were seated. In relation to Irish venues it was only slightly bigger than the Academy, but boasted better sound and easy access to the bar. 

The headline act appeared to attract a fairly motley bunch. A number of people nestled quietly into their chairs with a good book, some casually played Nintendo DS, whilst others sat decked head to toe in Decemberists inspired clothes (the Winter Queen was in attendance, sporting a crown fashioned from leaves) and waited patiently for the show. 

Up first were support act Blind Pilot who played a short set to a surprisingly receptive response. They were proficient players, but none of their songs were out of the ordinary. My cousin commented that it was music you would listen to on a train going somewhere you didn’t really want to go. Comparisons were immediately struck with Damien Rice, though Blind Pilot certainly lacked a Blowers Daughter or Volcano

The Decemberists quickly followed and their opening set was comprised of their latest album, The Hazards of Love. The album was done as a story and the tale was re-told live for about an hour, pretty much non stop, with the exception of brief pauses for sips of wine or the changing of tambourines. It did however drag along at times, and just as I was about to borrow a DS from the girl in front of me for a quick game of Pokemon, the set ended and they retreated for an intermission. 

Those who had raced to the front of the stage retreated to their seats and took out the bookmarks. There really is nothing quite like getting a good read of Twilight in while your waiting for your favourite artfully theatrical alternative indie band to resume. The band’s second set contained tracks from earlier albums, including the hits O Valencia and We Both Go Down Together. It was frantic and made all the more enjoyable by lead singer Colin Meloy’s witty crowd banter. 16 Military Wives was arguably the best received song of the night, particularly when Meloy divided the room and assigned each section with singing duties. 

The show finished with an entertaining re-enactment of the founding of Vancouver, which involved band members entering the crowd and standing on drums, pretending to be Native Americans and Norwegian sailors. All in all it was an unforgettable performance by one of the great theatrical acts around today.

Kevin Boyle

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Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).