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If this is what The Decemberists sound like on night two...

Roadrunner, Boston, May 2, 2024

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

For The Decemberists, this was only the second night of A Peaceable Kingdom Tour. That meant lots of changes in the set list from opening night on Tuesday in Kingston, N.Y. in their first heavy duty touring since 2018! If this is what the veteran northwest band sounds like this early in the tour, it's hard to imagine them sounding much better when the tour concludes this summer.

The Decemberists, who are sort of an indie folk band and more, asked a lot of their fans because their first full-length release in six years, "As It Ever Was, So It Will Be," is not out until mid-June. Playing five songs from the release certainly should have spiked the interest from fans because these songs sounded like keepers.

In fact, they started with a. new one, "All I Want Is You" with lead singer Colin Meloy and a few touring musicians helping out. That was part of an acoustic set before the full band came out. Perhaps a dicey way to begin, but in the hands of Meloy, it worked.

Perhaps none better than head-bob inducing "The Burial Ground," a song about hanging in graveyards. "Oh No!" also was a particular standout.

The 100-minute show found The Decemberists playing from a wide swath of material – about nine studio releases. Among the changes they made on the second night was including the always exquisite, triumphant sounding "The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid" with back-up singer Lizzy Ellison taking on the star role. Like others who have held the post before on previous tours, she was up to snuff. Good thing that the set list changed.

The rest of The Decemberists did their typically fine job – Chris Funke was pretty much understated on guitar, but he added just the right notes throughout. Jenny Conlee played a huge role for most of the night with lots of warm accordion along with her keyboards.

Meloy was in his usual fine voice and spirits throughout. He's always been a precise, clear-voiced singer. Some things don't change fortunately. On the theatrical side, he's also always had a fun sense of deadpan humor. He let the crowd "have it" in admonishing them for not properly executing a call-and-response during one song.

Drummer John Moen established a strong backbone with help from the nattily dressed bassist Nate Query. Kudos as well to whoever conceived the lighting because it was a colorful show visually without overwhelming the senses.

About the only real misstep (well aside from The Decemberists restarting one song when Moen thought the sax playing of Funke was a bit off, but all in good spirit) was the encore of "Joan in the Garden." The song, which is on the upcoming disc, clocked in at 17-plus minutes with a portion of it being Conlee adjusting the dials to create a cacophony of sound. That's a lot to ask anytime, but it felt long and would have been better played during the regular set.

The Decemberists have been coming to Boston for two decades. A highly engaging, enjoyable, fun night is pretty much guaranteed, and this show was no different.

Ratboys, a Chicago-based indie rock quartet, opened with a quick-paced 40-minute set. Interestingly, the opening number, "Making Noise for the Ones You Love," was musically harsh and so different from the remaining eight songs, which were a far easier, accessible listen.

Lead singer Julia Steiner was a strong presence, engaging with the material and the crowd. Like Meloy, she showed herself to have a good sense of humor, such as on the song "Elvis in the Freezer." It's a true story about her cat, who had to be put down by her parents when she was in school at Notre Dame. (the song was less creepy than the story). Guitarist Dave Sagan cut a different presence. Definitely on the serious side, he was a force on guitar providing the anchor and fills without pandering. Like the headliners, Ratboys benefit from good material.

Ratboys conjures up a negative bent, but this band most certainly did not.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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