When my friend invited me to The Decemberists show at UCLA’s Royce Hall, here’s what I agreed to (from the band’s website): “The debut of Here Come the Waves: The Hazards of Love Visualized, a collaboration between the band and four filmmakers, Guilherme Marcondes, Julia Pott, Peter Sluszka, and Santa Maria—each of whom have created animation to accompany a section of the album.” Sounds rad, right? It was.
The Hazards of Love is this theatrical narrative album that The Decemberists have been performing beginning to end with guest vocalists Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). Each time she stepped out from behind her keyboard to sing, Worden seemed to take all the breath out of the room and use it as her own. The audience could not get enough of her.
The visuals were stunning—from exploding fungi to wolf constellations to arms flailing in slo-mo to drowned Greek ruins—there were very few moments where my eyes left the projection screen to notice the live band playing below it. This show was perfectly executed; a thrilling blend of art and sound.
And then Colin Meloy told us to come back after a brief break for some more music. “That’s nice of them,” I thought. “They must be exhausted!”
Nearly an hour later, The Decemberists’ second concert of the night was finally wrapping up. I’ll give them credit—they maintained an energy I wouldn’t think possible after what was essentially a live rock opera. A sweaty Meloy jumped off stage to flirt with his front-row fans and then led us in several extended sing-alongs, organist Jenny Conlee did some swing dancing with a lucky audience member… They rocked out. For the 1/3 of the crowd who were serious Decemberists fans, this must’ve been a dream come true. For the remaining Royce Hall performance junkies and visual arts students in attendance, this was a long, long night. Thankfully, Meloy asked Stark and Worden back out for a jaw-dropping cover of “Crazy On You,” leaving those of us who didn’t know what we were getting into with a nice little parting gift.