A Sort of HomecomingJune 15th, 2011
The Decemberists – Prospect Park Bandshell – June 14, 2011
Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, took to the stage last night in Brooklyn, a borough he unwittingly helped build. See, since the first Decemberists demos and EP back in 2000-2001, Brooklyn fully embraced the Meloy shtick, a delocated Portland East, full of beards, thick-framed glasses, microbrewed beers and sustainably raised chicken. In essence, Meloy turned his wanton nerdiness into a major label deal with Capitol Records, and a bunch of nerdy kids declared him their archetype and followed his excellence by deftly selecting their shifts at the Park Slope Food Coop. The memory of these 10 years is as powerful as whatever actually happened. You didn’t necessarily need to look like Meloy to get into the bandshell last night, although it didn’t hurt, but this was in so many ways the return of the king.
Dressed in a smart three-piece gray suit, Meloy strode to the microphone more or less on time, with a glass of red wine that he carefully placed atop an amp, to be largely forgotten. The band opened with “July, July,” potentially their most singable song, before moving into material off their latest and best record, The King Is Dead, playing “Down by the Water” and “Calamity Song,” which Meloy offered free of charge to Michelle Bachman’s campaign. The beards and cheese plates on the lawn roared their approval but it was only Meloy who pulled off the sarcastic lyrical reference to supply-side economics before singing, “Will we gather to conjure the rain down?” laughing as his followers stood in hoods and umbrellas under a spitting drizzle. He couldn’t have seemed more powerful.
Perhaps it was some of Meloy’s first lyrics of the evening that rang the most true. In “July, July,” he reflected: “And we’ll remember this when we are old and ancient, though the specifics might be vague. And I’ll say your camisole was a sprightly light magenta when in fact it was a nappy bluish gray.” Memories colored with the sheen of nostalgia. So those in the crowd would forget these silly beards and goofy haircuts and the sleeping baby at a rock concert and the organic cheeses and the sustainably fermented pinot noir, but they will remember how this felt, to be in the same ZIP code as the brilliant Meloy. As he sang in “All Arise,” a country-western joint played to Prospect Park West, “just be mine tonight,” and they were. —Geoff Nelson