Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Decemberists perform The Hazards of Love at Stubbs for SXSW

Posted by teibs On March - 20 - 2009

december@ZackTeibloom I’m a sucker for bands playing albums in their entirety, but I can’t stand The Decemberists’ lead singer Colin Meloy’s voice.

I’d heard The Hazards of Love was a sprawling concept album and figured I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it performed in its entirety the day after it was released.

Could the addition of My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden bolster the whiny Meloy enough to make it a classic show like NPR hoped when they streamed it live? Almost.

Listen here as you follow the review

I’d love to say that the audience was hooked right away and stayed silent for the delicate, quiet opening to the album. That was not the case. It was a pretty drunk crowd at Stubbs, packed with listeners (and I use the tearm lightly) who clearly knew nothing of The Decemberists except they were huge in the indie-rock scene and NPR was streaming this show online, so it was the place to be.

december2The band arranged for Pink Floyd’s epic 22-minute track “Echoes” to play before they took the stage. Actually, almost all of Meddle was played to set the mood. That should tell you this should not have been a Lone Star-swilling concert and the ambiance was certainly hurt because it was. Listen for the douches who “wooo” during the strings build-up of the opening track.

According to NPR, “Meloy draws heavily from British folk, but also adds plenty of synthesizers and hard rock verging on heavy metal” in The Hazards of Love. The British folk was great, especially the duets with Becky Stark, but anytime Meloy was singing solo with an acoustic guitar, he lost me. The “hard rock verging on heavy metal” was top notch.

The plot of the album is that “The Hazards Of Love tells the tale of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake, who recounts with spine-tingling ease how he came ‘to be living so easy and free’ in the aforementioned ‘The Rake’s Song.’

Frankly, I couldn’t follow the plot at all and I never got over hating Meloy’s voice. The first 20 minutes were rough as the crowd struggled to shut up and get into it. I had to move into the first 25 rows to not have someone yammering constantly in my ear.

There were highlights like the lovely give and take between Meloy and Stark and when five band members were playing drums at once, but this wasn’t the career defining show I’m sure they and NPR hoped it would be. Above all, I was absoultely mesmerized anytime Shara Worden came out of hiding from her spot in the back corner of the stage to sing her metal rock parts and the command she had over the crowd had me wishing she was front and center the entire show.

I re-listened to the performance of The Hazards of Love on  NPR and plan on giving it a few more listens before making a decision on the album. As for the concert, I’ll always long for more Worder, less Meloy and a more attentive audience.

  • Anytime Colin Meloy sang solo: 6.0
  • Colin Meloy duets with Becky Stark: 8.0
  • When Shara Worden was rocking: 9.3

Overall: 8.2/10

Photos by All Songs and

1 Response

  1. Laura Said,

    Colin Meloy’s voice does take some time getting used to, but once it happens you’re entranced forever. Give it time and it’ll grow on you. Indie-lit-folk-rock FTW.

    Posted on March 21st, 2009 at 10:55 am

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