Photo recap, review and set list: Colin Meloy covered The Kinks, played Decemberists songs, and debuted four new tunes at the Keswick

 Photo by Chris Sikich |
Photo by Chris Sikich |

All photos and review by Chris Sikich.

On Saturday the Keswick Theatre was the setting for an impassioned mix of the macabre, the prurient and the fantastic from Colin Meloy, the frontman of one of the best bands of the aughts, The Decemberists. For both the show’s length and breadth you could not ask for much more as Meloy took the audience on a journey from the Portland, Ore., band’s first EP, 2001’s 5 Songs, through to 2011’s The King Is Dead, and even threw in four brand-new songs for good measure.

Meloy began the night with one of the new cuts, which he called “The Singer Addresses His Audience,” brandishing his well-earned confidence in his own talents. After earning some laughs for his wit in the self-reflexive work, he segued into one of The Decemberists’ staples — “July, July!” — a song that got the crowd to sing along in earnest. Tonal shifts are one of Meloy’s specialties, whether of the new/old variety or disturbing/romantic variety. Ending “Calamity Song” by relaying how it once had a connection to getting his son, Hank, to eat his oatmeal and then rolling into one of Meloy’s greatest songwriting achievements, “Oceanside,” about lusting after a woman at sea, further exemplifies the contrasts evident in his work.

Meloy kept the crowd highly engaged, getting sing-along moments to songs including “Red Right Ankle” and “The Crane Wife,” among others, as well as whistling help for the first set closer, “Bandit Queen.” These moments also suggested what was missing, namely the rest of The Decemberists. On “Ankle” Meloy even referenced a part bandmate Jenny Conlee-Drizos would have been playing. This does not show any flaws in the performance or the performer, though; they highlight that these works are pieces of a much greater whole that Meloy respects and cherishes. The newest works, which beyond their sometimes meta nature harbor the same verboseness (a particularly long line in “Honeydew” got Meloy a bit tongue-tied, leading him to say at the end that he had performed it better before) and desires (the youthful lust in “Philomena”) of The Decemberists’ greatest works will certainly have many more nuances with the rest of the band (as suggested in his interview with The Key earlier in the week, these songs are intended for the whole band). Unlike his early solo-show career back in 2005 and 2006, when he also played pre-Decemberists songs from an earlier incarnation known as Tarkio, Meloy is front and center solo as a part of a larger whole.

But with his solo shows comes a bit of creative maneuvering with what bands he might cover. In previous years, he interpreted the eclectic trio of Morrissey, Shirley Collins and Sam Cooke. This time around, he chose The Kinks and what he called the “chordiness” of Ray Davies, though he claimed Clannad and Nico were in the running as well. And rather than come out every night to play the same Kinks song, he chose one he’d never performed before a crowd, “Do You Remember Walter?”

There was something for every fan of Meloy and The Decemberists, from the phenomenal pairing of Picaresque’s “The Engine Driver” and “On the Bus Mall” to the always awe-inspiring closing of all three parts of “The Crane Wife.” And even if he did disappoint one die-hard listener who called out for an extreme rarity, “Perfect Crime No. 1,” a song played only a few times, he gave back so much musical enjoyment with his six and 12-string guitar mastery and inimitable vocal style that everyone should be sated enough before The Decemberists hit the studio and road again.

New Song (“The Singer Addresses His Audience”)
July, July!
Calamity Song
Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
Red Right Ankle
New Song (“Honeydew”)
New Song (“Philomena”)
Bachelor and the Bride
The Engine Driver
On the Bus Mall
Do You Remember Walter?
New Song (played with harmonica)
Down by the Water
Bandit Queen

The Crane Wife 1 & 2
The Crane Wife 3


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Colin Meloy at the Keswick Theatre, XPN Welcomes Matt Nathanson to the Electric Factory, Far Out Fangtooth at Boot & Saddle and more


Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists, brings his solo tour to the Keswick Theatre tonight.    The Portland, OR musician will be sharing new songs alongside tracks from his extensive catalog during the tour.  He’s also supporting a new cover EP called Colin Meloy Sings The Kinks, which he discussed in an interview with The Key earlier this week.  Tickets and information for the all-ages solo show can be found here.  Below, listen to Meloy covering “Sister I’m a Poet” from his previous Morrissey cover EP.

XPN welcomes Matt Nathanson to the Electric Factory tonight.  The poppy singer-songwriter is touring in support of a new album called Last of the Great Pretenders, released in July on Vanguard Records.  Tonight, Nathanson will be joined by Joshua Radin.  Tickets and information can be found here.  Below, watch the video for Last of the Great Pretenders‘ first single “Mission Bells.”

Local psychedelic rockers Far-Out Fangtooth celebrate the release of Borrowed Time tonight at Boot & Saddle.  It’s the second full-length LP for the two year old band, put out via legendary cult label Siltbreeze.  In an interview with The Key earlier this week, the band explained the root of their dark and gothy sound, in addition to detailing how Far-Out Fangtooth came together.  Tickets and information for tonight’s 21+ show can be found here.  Watch their new video for “Beyond Your Bones” below.

Also Playing:

Built to Spill at Union Transfer (8:00 p.m., all ages, $22)

Pink Slip Daddy at Kung Fu Necktie (8:00 p.m., 21+, $10)


Interview: Talking about The Kinks and cover songs with The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy (playing The Keswick Theater on Saturday)

1331He’s a songwriter in his own right, but Colin Meloy of Portland indie troupe The Decemberists is also an appreciator of music, the pop hits and the deep cuts. In 2005, his Colin Meloy Sings… EP project made its debut to coincide with a solo tour. Over time, the series has tackled the music of Morrissey and Sam Cooke, as well as lesser-known names like English folk revivalist Shirley Collins, via limited-run tour-only EPs.

Since their wildly popular 2011 album The King is Dead, The Decemberists have been relatively quiet, allowing some of its members to play with the rustic ensemble Black Prairie, while Meloy launched a series of children’s books with his wife Carson Ellis. But this fall he is out on the road again, hitting up Glenside’s Keswick Theater on November 2nd, and this time he brings an EP covering the music of The Kinks; you can hear his rendition of “Do You Remember Walter?” at NPR Music.

On Tuesday I caught up with Meloy on the Phone from his Portland home; you can read our conversation below to dig into the origins of the Sings project, the function of cover songs in general, the greatest era of Ray and Dave Davies, and what might become of the new songs he’s testing out on tour.

The Key: You’ve been doing these Colin Meloy Sings EPs for about eight years now. What were the project’s origins?

Colin Meloy: The first solo tour I did was in 2005. It seemed like kind of a novel project, as far as just having something on the road to make it an event, and maybe induce people to come out to the shows. I think I mostly just thought as excuse to take on a weird project. And I think just Morrissey had drawn me because he is one of the few artists that I know pretty much his body of work, inside and out. I don’t think there is a single song that I don’t know pretty intimately. I mean, since 2005 I guess I haven’t really kept up with the post-You Are The Quarry output, but certainly prior to that. And it was fun to kind go through and dig through B-sides and kind of re-record these songs as my kind of interpretation of them. So that sort of set a precedent and so for the next solo tour I figured I should just keep doing it, and doing it in the same fashion. And that leads us to today with The Kinks.

TK: Were the other artists in the series ones that you knew their body of work just as intimately?
CM: No. With Shirley Collins, I kind of had given myself a crash course over the course of a year or two. So that came at a time when I felt like I was being kind of like a scholar of the British folk revival, and she was one of my intros into that. And it was also an opportunity to kind of maybe expose people to Shirley Collins; people who maybe haven’t necessarily known about her. And then with Sam Cooke, I just had a love for those songs. They’re the sort of songs that are just in your bones, everybody just knows them. I tend to think of them as pop songs and they do have a nice intimacy that I thought would translate nicely to really simple, spare renditions. So that’s really where the Sam Cooke one went. And The Kinks was trickier. I feel like I was really stumped this time around. I have their records and I know their work really well, but I never actually dug in that deep. Aside from playing “You Really Got Me” with a high school band, I had never actually learned a Kinks song really. So it was an opportunity to do that.

TK: I’m a little intimidated by how many albums they have. And I know a lot of people, a lot of people I know are in the same boat. With you, what do you think it really was that kept you from diving in till now?

CM: It’s the depth of the work and it just runs the gamut. I mean there’s just tons of kind of tossed-off stuff, as well as, songs that you know, but never maybe spent the time to really sorta focus in. They’re baroquely arranged, which can sometimes distract from the lyrics. For example, it was sort of a revelation to me that “Waterloo Sunset” – which I think everybody knows as being this love letter to London, so much so that it was even performed at the opening ceremony of the Olympics – that if you dig, if you get under the hood and actually learn the song it’s kind of a really sad song about an agoraphobe and kind of a misanthrope. I think that strain, that attitude goes through a lot of his music. So where it seems like this really romantic tune about the beauty of the London skyline, it’s actually about a guy who just doesn’t leave his house; which is kind of amazing. Continue reading →


My Morning Download: “Seek and Hide” by Lucy Wainwright Roche ft. Colin Meloy (playing Burlap and Bean this Saturday night 9/14)

lucy2 Indie-folk singer-songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche is releasing a new album, There’s A Last Time For Everything, on October 15th. She plays Burlap and Bean this Saturday, September 14th and will be on the Women’s Music Hour tomorrow with XPN Morning Show host Michaela Majoun in th 9 P.M. hour. The daughter of Suzzy Roche and Loudon Wainwright III, Lucy’s sophomore record was inspired by a trip to Nashville where Lucy worked with a friend, collaborator and producer, Jordan Brooke Hamlin. There’s an excellent cover of Robyn’s dance hit “Call Your Girlfriend” on the album Lucy also has several guest vocalists on the album including Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Below, download “Seek and Hide,” featuring Meloy on backing vocals. Go here for tickets and more information about Lucy’s show on Saturday night at Burlap and Bean.

Purchase There’s A Last Time For Everything here


Just Announced: Colin Meloy of The Decemberists to Play Solo at The Keswick Theater on 11/2

1331Colin Meloy, lead singer of The Decemberists just announced that he is embarking on a solo tour.  This is the first time he has toured alone in about five years.  The ten-date tour has Melow debuting new material, performing tracks from across his career, and showcasing a new EP of covers.  Among the stops is suburban Montgomery County, where he will play at The Keswick Theater in Glenside on Novermber 2nd.  Tickets for the show go on sale this Friday.  In the meantime, get pumped for his solo tour by watching Meloy play all three parts of The Crane Wife below.