Monday, September 7, 2009

An Evening at Mountain Park

Hello all! So, I meant to post this ages ago, but that's the way things go sometimes. If you were listening closely to our show than maybe you remember me talking about seeing The Decemberists live last month. Well, I wrote up this little review of the show, complete with a few pictures. Hope you enjoy!

Ever since I first heard The Decemberists Hazards of Love album I’ve been longing to see it performed live in its entirety. Of course, seeing the band live at all would be a thrill for me, which is why I loved their set at Newport Folk Festival. For that one day they took a break from performing the whole album and instead played a few select songs off of it, as well as a bunch of old favorites and two brand new songs. It was great, but there’s no denying that any song off of their new album is just that much better when heard sequentially. The Hazards of Love plays like a mini rock/folk/opera that was made for the stage, with songs overlapping and a story that unfolds slowly as each character is introduced. A concept album. So, when I saw that they were playing the opening weekend of Mountain Park I knew this was my chance to see Hazards onstage!

Mountain Park was originally opened in 1894 as a retreat that expanded into an amusement park. It closed in 1987 but has now been reopened as a music venue by the Iron Horse Entertainment Group. This place is so new that the grass hasn’t even finished growing over the newly leveled ground. Despite all that, the site is quite picturesque and a great place to see a show on a warm August evening. The hill in front of the stage provides an excellent view, and, if you prefer to get a little closer to the action, there’s plenty of room to do so.

The Heartless Bastards opened the show. I can’t say I’m that familiar with their music and I was a bit too distracted with scoping the place out to pay close attention, but their set was al

right. Then, just as the light was fading, The Decemberists took to the stage. With little preamble, Jenny Conlee was the first to come out and strike up the opening bars of the Hazards of Love Prelude. After that the rest of the band filed in and took up their instruments… and didn’t put them down again until the whole album had been played. Watching the whole thing being performed, it struck me just how much like a play it is, though it’s being performed purely by voice and instrument. There are entrances and exits to be perfectly timed and, because of the way the songs bleed into one another, there’s barely any time to pause. It’s great to watch. The band was, of course, joined by Becky Stark voicing Margaret, and Shara Worden as the Forest Queen. And, I have to say it; can I please be Shara Worden when I grow up? Her voice and stage presence are simply amazing. Watching her and Colin Meloy sing The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid was one of the highlights of the night.

So, yes, having the whole album performed right there in front of me from start to tragic finish was incredible. But it didn’t end there. After the band was cheered back onstage we were treated to a bunch of old favorites as well as a new song and a chance to hear Meloy banter with the crowd. He performed Dracula’s Daughter with great gusto.

Another thing I was crossing my fingers to see was their cover of Heart’s Crazy on You. The youtube video I saw a few months ago was enough to convince me it would be amazing and I wasn’t disappointed. After being cheered back to the stage again Meloy performed Red Right Ankle and then the whole crew came back to perform an amazing Heart cover. Actually, I’m pretty sure I like it better then the original. After that they closed the show with Sons and

Daughters off of The Crane wife. The whole crowd sang along for the

refrain, and with that, the night was over.

So, in conclusion: The Decemberists put on an amazing live show. In fact, I’d say this definitely makes it into my top five favorite shows I’ve been to. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch them again next time they make it back to New England. As for Mountain Park itself, I definitely look forward to seeing what their lineup looks like next summer.

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