Decemberists Warm Up For Lolla With Fan Favorites

Just hours before they take the stage in front of 10,000 more fans across town on the first day of Lollapaloopza, the Decemberists got their feet wet Thursday night with a sweaty tune up show at Chicago’s famed Metro rock club.??

Veering from the current format of playing their latest concept album, Hazards of Love, in its entirety, the Portland band allowed the 1,000-plus die-hards to vote online for their favorites. The show opened with a 15-plus minute version of “The Tain,” from the EP of the same name from 2004, which swayed and swooped like a drunken, seasick sailor’s song.

As a testament to their fans’ devotion, every dip and swirl of the song was greeted with whoops of joy, which only increased when the band next served up some exuberant pop with “July, July” and the triumphant rock of “The Rake’s Song” from Hazards. After the wistful folk of another nugget, “Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect” – and a poke at people who refer to the festival as “Lolla” — singer/songwriter Colin Meloy paused for a moment to pay homage to director John Hughes, a Chicago native who died earlier in the day in New York after suffering a heart attack.

Though he announced that they’d play it a cappella, the full band joined him for a yearning folkie take on OMD’s “If You Leave,” best known as the theme song from Hughes’ “Pretty in Pink.” As a testament to the unique sound of Meloy’s voice and his band’s signature melancholy, the British new wave song sounded unmistakably Decemberist in their hands.

After a few more sing-along fan favorites (“We Both Go Down Together,” “Yankee Bayonet,” “The Crane Wife,” and “Valencia,” the main set ended with another cover that killed. Ceding the microphone to Hazard cohorts Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden, Meloy strummed away on a fairly straightforward run through Heart’s FM radio anthem “Crazy On You” that has quickly become a live favorite. Worden and Stark took turns belting out the song’s emphatic chorus as Meloy smiled proudly off to the side, while the women did the Wilson sisters of Heart proud with their tag-team power vocals.

All in all, not a bad way to get your mojo worked up for three days of Lolla. (Sorry, Colin.)