Saturday, November 9, 2013

Colin Meloy & Eleanor Friedberger at Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, 11/8/2013

Rocktober 2013 refuses to end.  While Halloween night's double feature of The Orb at Vinyl and Chelsea Light Moving at The Earl might have seemed like a fitting finale to Rocktober, since then we've had Thee Oh Sees at Terminal West (11/2), CocoRosie at Variety Playhouse (11/5), and last night, the highly anticipated Eleanor Friedberger and Colin Meloy concert at the Playhouse.

Eleanor Friedberger started the show at 8:30 sharp, taking the stage wearing a slinky, cosmic-patterned dress with matching stockings and, as always, the coolest bangs in rock 'n' roll.  

We've seen Eleanor perform before, at MFNW 2011 when she opened for The Kills and at The Basement at Graveyard Tavern when she opened for Hospitality.  Howwever, we've not yet seen her with her main band, The Fiery Furnaces, even though, as she said on stage last night, they've played Atlanta lots of times before. 

This was quite a different performance that the previous times we've seen her, however,as she had been supported by a  band during those other sets, while last night she performed solo, sitting on a chair and playing electric guitar.  She cranked up the reverb on most of the songs, giving her set more of a rock that a folk sound, but with her interesting songs and clever lyrics, her set clearly fit into the singer/songwriter category. 

Most of her songs last night were naturally from her newest album, Personal Record, including Stare At The Sun, Other Boys, and When I Knew, but she also threw in at least one Fiery Furnaces song, and concluded her set with an old favorite, My Mistakes.   

In all, although her set went on for well over a half-hour, it seemed far too short, leaving most of the audience and I calling for more.  Of course, as the opener, she couldn't play an encore, but we got over it pretty quickly upon remembering that The Decemberists' frontman, Colin Meloy, would be taking the stage next. 

Meloy took the stage wearing a red flannel shirt, strapped on a harmonica holder, and started playing.  Even though it was just his voice and an acoustic guitar (which he changed many times during the set), the rich expressiveness of his voice and the quality of his songwriting made up for any potential limitations of the instrumentation.

He played songs from throughout the Decemberists' career, including many from their most recent record, 2011's The King Is Dead, notably that album's opener Don't Carry It All as the second song of his set. Other King Is Dead songs included Down By The Water, Dear Avery, and the apocalyptic Calamity Song (which hilariously started as something called Hank, Eat Your Oatmeal).  Speaking of Calamity Song, it got me to wondering who has produced the greatest tennis-themed video, The Decemberists, who based their video on David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, or Courtney Barnett, based on her witty song Avant Gardener?

Meloy recorded a new EP of covers of Kinks songs just for this tour.  Last night, he performed Do You Remember Walter? from The Village Green Preservation Society.  Interestingly, the song seemed to fit him like a glove, one of the cleverest lyricists west of the Atlantic singing the words of one of the cleverest lyricists east of the pond.

There were more set highlights than I can even remember - in fact, it often felt that every song, even the couple of new songs thrown into the set, was a highlight - but I will single out Margaret In the Tiaga from The Hazards of Love, with Meloy singing both the male and female lines; Los Angeles I'm Yours from Her Majesty; and The Engine Driver from Picaresque, with the audience singing along the poignant refrain "And if you don't love me let me go."  In fact, there was a lot of singing along, including the wordless "A-woo" of The Calamity Song, and Meloy masterfully led the audience participation, frequently referring to the evening as a "campfire sing-along."  

For his encore, Meloy sang all three parts of The Crane Wife (Parts 1, 2, and 3).

It was a very special, joyful evening, and Meloy genuinely seems to be one of the nicest, must likable guys in indie rock (which has no shortage of nice, likable guys).  'Frinstance, during The Calamity Song singalong, after we all sang the line, "Hetty Green, queen of supply-side bonhomie bone-drab," a woman remarked, "Whatever that means," and Meloy, smiling, nodded to her while singing the next line, "You know what I mean," in a way that made it seem like a personal response to her remark.

Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to see The Decemberists perform live (despite three separate week-long trips to the Northwest for music festivals), but between last night's show by Colin Meloy and last September's set by Black Prairie, I feel like I've at least come close to the experience.

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