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The Decemberists and Julien Baker in Philadelphia

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  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

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    As The Decemberists took to the stage at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, it became obvious that they could have played a room worlds larger than the largest club venue in Philadelphia if they desired. The rapturous sold out crowd of 3,000 roared back the words to the opening salvo, the three-part odyssey “The Crane Wife”, from the album of the same name that recently turned ten years old. The fact that they booked the “Shuffling Off to Ragnarok” tour at venues such as this, though, speaks to a desire for intimacy; a desire to hear and be heard, a desire to share a smaller space with the people who care most about them.

    [​IMG] Given this, their choice for the opener of the tour, Julien Baker, could not be more appropriate. It’s not a stretch to say that these are some of the biggest shows the 21 year old singer-songwriter has played, but her music has a way of making a space feel intimate, vulnerable, and personal, no matter how big or small it is. Leading off with new single “Funeral Pyre,” Baker then belted through an all-together far too short six song set in well under a half an hour. The highlight of the set was easily “Rejoice,” as the haunting hymnal took on an added significance in the time of Passover and Good Friday. The crowd was unfortunately growing unruly with anticipation by the end of the set, however, and it lead to some fairly loud chatter which threatened to drown out Baker’s performance. Baker didn’t pay it any mind, however, as she decided she would share an unreleased song with the crowd. The song, “Turn Out The Lights,” which will presumably be on her sophomore album, due out on Matador Records this fall, is everything fans have grown to love about Baker and more. Her voice soars, the song comes to an emphatic crescendo, and the lyrics are devastatingly poignant. I do not think there is any way I could be anticipating that record more.

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    After a short intermission, The Decemberists greeted their fans with a career spanning set which dove into every era of the band and every aspect of their diverse sound. The aforementioned The Crane Wife trilogy as well as fan favorite “O Valencia” represented The Crane Wife, which turned ten years old last year. “Red Right Ankle,” performed solo acoustically by vocalist Colin Meloy represented the “Her Majesty the Decemberists” era of the band as well as a termporary breather from the energetic set. The band also broke out “The Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing” from their 2009 rock opera The Hazards of Love in a surprising moment of Zeppelin-esque bombast. The song is a show-stopper to be sure with a chaotic light display and pulverizing drums.

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    The show took an irreverent turn around the midway point, when the band decided to play two new songs back-to-back, “Everything is Awful” and “We All Die Young.” The songs titles hinted at the current events in the papers right now as well as a sarcasm about the existentialist dread that seems to be facing all of us. Somehow, though, “Everything is Awful” turned into one of the biggest singalongs of the night, as the smirking sense of humor and a supremely catchy melody won fans over. And I think at the very least, most of the crowd could admit, as they sang along, that Meloy was right, “everything is awful.” Awful, that is, outside of The Fillmore. But inside The Fillmore, at least for one night only, we all thought maybe things would be alright in the end.