The Decemberists - Manchester Academy
There are no two ways around it, The Decemberists' show at the Manchester Academy was FUN! From the moment the band walked on stage, the energy level never dipped below happy delirium, due in large part to Colin Meloy's excellent frontmanship - "Hello Mancunians! I've always wanted to say that." From the get-go, Meloy's utterly endearing stage presence had the audience at his feet, whether it was Meloy commenting on the "charming" accents of the rather vocal crowd, which he could not understand ("that could either be 'black pudding', or 'f*ck off'") or regaling us with the story of his 1996 Irish Sea crossing in which he hurled, Edwardian style, over the side of the ferry. His non-stop stage banter was as entertaining as the wonderful music.
Beginning with 'Infanta' from 2005's Picaresque the band treated us to a generous set featuring songs culled primarily from their lovely sixth album The King Is Dead as well as a smattering of tunes from their impressive back catalogue. 'Down By The Water', 'Rox In The Box' and 'Rise To Me' had a splendor that surpassed their recorded versions, while the outstanding 'This Is Why We Fight' brought the house down.
The band rounded off the set with old favourites 'Sixteen Military Wives', replete with audience sing-along, the stunning 'Eli The Barrow Boy' and 'The Mariner's Revenge Song' which included a choreographed dance routine and a re-enactment of the climatic death scene in which the crowd were instructed to scream on cue, Meloy chastising us on our lack of method ("Haven't you ever been swallowed alive by a whale?")
The highlight was the band coming back for a second encore and performing a moving rendition of 'June Hymn' from the last album; Meloy, a self-professed Morrissey fan (describing Manchester as a sort of "Narnia for moping sixteen year old boys") segueing seamlessly into The Smith's classic 'Ask' with the audience joining in. A perfect end to a perfect evening.
Set list: Infanta, Down By The Water, Rox In The Box, Rise To Me, Annan Water, Won't Want For Love, The Crane Wife 1 & 2, The Crane Wife 3, Don't Carry It All, Calamity Song, January Hymn, The Rake's Song, Sixteen Military Wives, This Is Why We Fight, (encore) Eli, The Barrow Boy, The Mariner's Revenge Song (second encore) June Hymn/Ask