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Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

April 9, 2017

The Decemberists at the State Theater

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The Decemberists kicked off their tour with a performance at Ithaca’s State Theatre this Friday. Despite having a couple of kinks to work out, the band produced a beautiful sound that involved a variety of instruments. The Decemberists delighted the audience with songs old and new, and great energy that filled the entirety of the theatre.

The Decemberists were introduced by Julien Baker, a young songwriter out of Memphis. Her soft but slightly haunting vocals were perfect for the night’s setting and tone: captivating and emotive.  Baker’s tone was subdued and the crowd welcomed it.

When the Decemberists came on stage, they opened with a marching interlude for the song “The Infanta.” The audience only grew more eager when John Moen, the drummer, performed and laughed as the audience clapped along with the beat. The song served as a perfect opening, filled with vivacity and exuberance. Each of the band’s members seemed sincerely happy to be performing in Ithaca.

Following the opening song, the band performed one of my favorites: “We Both Go Down Together.” Before performing the song, the lead vocalist, Colin Meloy, stated, “This song is about a joint suicide.” He jumped up and down, provoking the audience to do the same. The song described a tragic love affair ending on the “cliffs of Dover.” Although the lyrics were heart-rending, the band’s lighthearted energy reduced the song’s emotional intensity.

Around the fifth song, the band transitioned to a more mysterious, darker sound. The lights dimmed for the song “Till the Water’s All Gone.” The lyrics — “my sweet flower, and how you grew more sweet by the hour, and loathe was I, loathe was I to lose you” — stuck with me. Meloy closed his eyes as he sang the words, tapping his foot to the beat. His coarse voice echoed through the theatre. The band also introduced a new instrument: the double bass. Later on, Meloy took on a harmonica in addition to the guitar and lead vocals. The abundance of instruments that The Decembrists utilize add exceptional texture to the overall sound.

Towards the end of the set, Meloy introduced a song as a message for the ages, proclaiming that “we all die young.” What followed was a more folky sound, though with the same exciting energy as the other songs. I was impressed by The Decemberists ability to perform songs that each had a unique sound.  At one point, after making a reference to the Smiths, Meloy told the audience he was about to play some “dad rock.” The variety kept me engaged throughout the night, I never felt like I was listening to the same type of songs, as something new came up each time they started a song.

The Decemberists also introduced new songs from their upcoming album. Meloy joked about remembering the words to new songs and butchering them. “But how does that differentiate from the old songs?” he joked. The band’s carefree vibe was definitely one of the highlights. It really seemed like The Decemberists and the audience had an unspoken connection full of mutual affection. Although the sounds varied between folk, “dad rock” and alternative rock, the set seemed consistent and carefully planned. I was impressed by The Decemberists and was glad to see so much passion for the Ithaca audience.

Isabella York is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at iy43@cornell.edu

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