I saw The Decemberists perform a free concert last night with the Grant Park Orchestra in Millennium Park, which was a pretty good show despite the rain and the chatty people on the lawn. The band's collaboration with an orchestra was such a good match, even though they did play about four songs on their own.
I will admit, however, that I kind of have a love / hate relationship with The Decemberists when it comes to their live shows. When I saw them a few months ago, I was very put-off by the pretentious on-stage antics. I understand that Colin and Co. have these playful personalities and they want to bring that out in their live shows, but really, we get it. We know the music, so we don't need to watch you reenact scenes from The Hobbit in the audience (because, really, not that many people can see it anyway). I'd much rather hear a band play music than see them do something crazy and kooky.
Luckily the show last night was so huge that they couldn't really do anything of that nature. And I was extremely pleased because they played one of my favorite songs, "I Was Meant For The Stage," and the performance last night may have been the second best performance of a song I've ever heard (the first being, hands down, Sufjan's Stevens singing "Romulus" at his Black Cat show back in 2004). But for every "I Was Meant For The Stage," there's at least two or three pirate-rock songs (a description Adam appropriately used to describe the band) that make me hate them a little bit. They ended their show with "The Mariner's Revenge Song," which is definitely not my favorite, especially when it's coupled with requested audience participation on Colin's part. I'm historically anti-clap- and sing-alongs, and I'm extremely against having to "scream like I'm being eaten by a whale" when instructed. No thank you, sir. What made the performance really get to me was the group of people behind us who decided to do an interpretive dance sequence to the song. As I'm watching one white guy with dreadlocks pretend to battle some meathead in a wifebeater as an indie-rock sea shanty blasted from the speakers overhead, I knew it was time to call it a night. And then I noticed that in the sea of "young people," a term I'm sure the twenty Grant Park Music Festival regulars used to describe the crowd's demographic, there were a lot of interpretive dancers looking just as stupid. The one major thought running through my head was, "This is the kind of crowd who prefers its irony on twenty-dollar T-shirts and its mix-CDs curated by Zach Braff." And that's the kind of crowd of which I want no part.