The Decemberists Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON - March 29, 2004

The Decemberists Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON - March 29, 2004
"That's just the kind of geeks we are," joked Decemberists singer/ songwriter Colin Meloy, referring to the group's attempts to "fit in" during their recent stop at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern. Despite extensive touring down south supporting their two excellent full lengths, Her Majesty and Castaways & Cutouts, this was their first show in Canada and, in preparation, they'd gone all out: they placed Canadian stickers on their equipment, boned up on Canadian politics and lead guitarist Chris Funk even sported a toque specially bought for the occasion. Meloy seemed proud of the group's effort and, really, this kind of charmingly lame gesture, as further evidenced by their excellent set, is nothing new for the Decemberists. Meloy and his band worked through tales of homoerotic battlegrounds, haunted warehouses, indigent "chimbley sweeps," a short improv piece about Picasso not having Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and a complete live translation of their recent EP The Tain, an 18-minute, five-part prog/folk track based around Irish mythology. It's true that the band is about as cool as the surface of the sun and they have a penchant for combining fairly accessible pop/folk with increasingly esoteric lyrics. Thankfully, it's a dichotomy that was perfectly balanced by the night's set, chasing jovial pop numbers like "Billy Liar," "July, July" and "Bachelor and the Bride" with great folk-ish ballads, most notably "Grace Cathedral Hill" and show highlight "Red Right Ankle." Their epic "I Was Meant for the Stage" brought the show to its cacophonic finale, slowly building from a quiet tale of a life meant for the stage to a lengthy free-time wall of sound. Only the incredible "The Tain," effortlessly performed earlier in the set, could top it, though those tracks wouldn't be alone in proving the Decemberists as more than just a couple of geeks singing about pantaloons.