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The Decemberists - We All Raise Our Voices to the Air CD (album) cover


The Decemberists


Prog Folk

3.15 | 9 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Following the release of their most commercial (and commercially successful) studio album to date, the vagabonds and ragamuffins of The Decemberists return with a double-disc live set from their year 2011 American tour. It was probably inevitable that the band would choose to consolidate its popularity with a big, generous live package. But critics could also argue it's a surefire way to avoid making any decision about where to go next: down the same easy path to mainstream accessibility marked by their album "The King Is Dead", or back toward the whimsical folk-rock narratives of earlier efforts, with their petticoats, pantaloons, and restless Victorian ghosts.

So the new live album finds the group comfortably settled on their flowery laurels: a respite they've certainly earned. And fans who might have felt a slight letdown after hearing "The King Is Dead" should be reassured by the omnibus nature of the set list, drawn from the band's entire history, all the way back to their year 2001 demo EP "5 Songs".

It's not an entirely accurate representation of any single gig, however. Ringleader Colin Meloy cherry-picked elements from throughout the tour to assemble an idealized faux-concert, complete with Meloy's often priceless between-song banter (in truth, one of the big attractions to these discs). Alas, none of the songs were culled from the show I attended in Lewiston, New York, on the bluffs above the Niagara would have been fun to hear drummer John Moen's unscripted rendition of "The Monster Mash" again.

I wouldn't expect this live CD to win any new fans. With the exception of the "The Crane Wife" trilogy of songs, performed uninterrupted and (unlike the studio versions) in the proper sequence, newcomers may wonder why an REM-influenced Indie Rock ensemble is even included on this site at all. In answer I would direct your skeptical attention to the album "The Hazards of Love": a masterpiece of modern Prog, but without the usual imitative ties to the 1970s, and sadly represented here by only one cut ("The Rake's Song"), somewhat orphaned when heard out of context.

The show comes to a rousing climax with "The Mariner's Revenge Song", one of those obligatory crowd-pleasers in danger of being spoiled by overexposure, not unlike "Roundabout" by Yes or the long-standing Jethro Tull ball-and-chain "Aqualung". But the encore is encouraging: a faithful performance of the otherwise routine ballad "I Was Meant For the Stage", devolving in its final chorus into an extended free-form barrage of raw, over-amped noise.

Perhaps that unexpected coda was meant as a challenge by Meloy to his fans: don't get too complacent just yet..! But for now it's enough to simply enjoy the spectacle of a unique band caught in the spotlight at the crossroads of ambition: no longer just another eccentric cult act, and precariously navigating the knife-edge of real success.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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