Here we are. Just a few weeks after the Death Cab show. Just two years from their last tour that hit Philadelphia, Portland rockers, is that even the right term to use for this band, have returned to the city that loves them for their summer 2011 tour. This time the tour name is not an anagram for the album like A Short Fazed Hovel was for The Hazards of Love. No this time they were not playing at a venue where even they themselves in their hipstery looks were likely to get shot and or stabbed but that’s Upper Darby which is a very seedy area outside of Philadelphia, actually I was shocked with how close it was to Center City but that is another time and place. The show though was at the glorious Academy of Music which stood on both Broad and Locust. The venue from the outside looked tiny as sin and left me wondering how we can fit a few thousand people in a tiny looking building while just down the street the relatively new Kimmel Center stood both new and futurey looking. As it turns out there was several layers of balconies that we found people on and it was quite scary to look up but the venue was well a theater for operas and other live performances that were far from a rock concert.
The opening act was a band by the name of Best Coast. I had known that they were the opener for a while but never really had bothered to learn their material that much. That’s the problem with opening acts, you want to know them when you go in but at the same time you could give two shits but that wasn’t the case here. Best Coast has a nice California pop sound to them that is reminiscent of the Beach Boys if a woman was singing and doing the song writing. Not that I mind the band but the venue was not a rather good place for them to be playing, honestly, we are talking about a theater hosting a very noisy sound band.
Best Coast seemingly blew through the set playing for a whopping forty minutes or maybe more having started a bit earlier than 8 and played almost through the hour. The problem was this, a majority of their songs come in under 3 minutes so the fact that they were still up there at 8:30 at night and well I wanted them off the stage. Their album tracks aren’t bad. It didn’t help that their stage presence was lacking. The frontwoman wore clothing that was too small for her and and at times it seemed like she was lip syncing the songs. She just stood there and stood there. When she left the venue later that night and fans tried to interact with her she was very passive and nodded and said yeah. It seemed like she was on some kind of date rape drug and their Asian bassist who seemed to be having a good time on stage was going to take advatage of her.
After their set ended she just essentially stormed off the stage as if she were some diva who was just flat out too good to say thank you or anything to the fans. Whatever I have no intention on seeing these guys live again at least until they clean up their act. Now after a little bit of time the Decemberists came out. Yes they did something really cheesey as if having the mayor of Portland in a helicopter over the venue in order to introduce the band was really going to happen. It wasn’t The band came out, very formally dressed, lead man Colin Meloy decked out in a suit and pink collared shirt holding a nice glass of what was most likely classic vintage wine. He introduced themselves and started in on the first song.
Unlike most of my reviews instead of going from song to song I’m just going to sum up the experience as compared to what I have been doing. After jumping around for a few songs he began to talk. Meloy has this way with the audience, he had them on his side essentially through the entire night. As if it were he was bonding with the balcony people saying how they show up early while the pit people come in on their own leisure. Some of the early highlights included the intense opening track “July, July!” which had a sizzling start to the night. After a few new tracks “The Bagman’s Gambit” proved to be quite another entertaining piece. The track starts off in a faster tempo then the recording does, I have no idea why Meloy would speed it up but it still works.
The between song banter between Meloy and the fans was quite entertaining. One time he mentioned how much he loves Philadelphia, he even went as far as saying how he was so happy to not be playing at a venue where they will get shot at as they leave. Quite humorous. Following the song Meloy casually introduced teh next song as a song about join suicide which left some people in stitches and others like um….wtf? The track was a great song called “We Both Go Down Together” and it was a great sing along.
Much like the last show the band did a splendid job on the stage as it came to providing an entertaining experience. Not to say that my comment about the last show I went to was false, this was a great show but in another way. Comparing a Death Cab show to a Decemberists show is like apples and oranges. Granted while the Decemberists had more stage poise and cunning the Death Cab show was superior in venue choice and the fact that I love that band a lot more, which is not to say that I don’t love this one.
Other highlights of the first set included “The Crane Wife 3” , “The Perfect Crime”, “Rake’s Song” as well as essentially the rest of the set. One of the best highlights of the night came when Meloy started strumming on his guitar and was saying how this was by far the worst song he ever wrote. This doesn’t shock me that he did this cause he apparently does this with every tour he does. I forgot that he did this on the last show that I saw and it’s all over YouTube even though a search shows that it’s all over it. I mean I loved that he did what he did, granted his talk was not the same as it always it seems like he jokes around a bit differently with the area. But I loved how it flowed nicely into “O Valencia!” They closed out the night with “This Is Why We Fight” which is a great song off of the new album and I really enjoyed it. The band walked off the stage and came back eventually for a brief encore.
The encore consisted of only 3 songs, “Raincoat Song,” a Fruit Bats cover song and a half hour rendition of “Chimbley Sweep” in which Meloy made quite the banter with and eventually gave his guitar to a fan in the audience and brought them on stage and improved a blues song that was sung by the drummer. It was quite like what they did on teh last tour on the same song. Gee I wonder if they plan it to be the same.
All in all the night was quite eventful and entertaining. The band put on a good show that is sure to leave you wanting a bit more after the show and make you pay another forty bucks for tickets for their next tour date which seems like a nice steal if you think about how much you get out of it. I didn’t like the venue for them though because of the acoustical problems during the night, it wasn’t just Best Coast that had these problems but I’ll allow it. This was essentially as close to perfect of a show as you can get.