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Friday, December 19, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Overcast
Music
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The Decemberists sail through a great show in Madison
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Credit:Emily Denaro

It has been determined that I cannot see My Brightest Diamond too many times. The third time in Madison since September brought a new twist on an old favorite.

Shara Worden's usual dark, gothic attire and giddy, angelic delivery were traded for cream couture from H&M's Madonna line and accessorized with Mrs. Ritchie's grit. There may not have been any pointy bra raunchiness, but Worden did dirty up the rest.

Although a bit timid due to a buzzing cord, My Brightest Diamond was served well by the feedback that added to the raw, grittier way songs were handled on this stop. Worden previously started shows with Nina Simone's 'Feelin' Good' but swapped that for a new finale, Led Zeppelin's 'No Quarter.' This and 'Magic Rabbit' (her best version yet) proved that she's not just a wee chick with a pretty trained voiced and that her band is not just there for 'back up.' Nathan Lithgow again impressed with his impassioned, aerobic bass playing.

Next time My Brightest Diamond comes around and only plays a short set, I say we capture them for the greater good of Madison's auditory pleasure. Who's with me?

Spring's first muggy show of 2007 formed a line down State St. and around the corner to the Orpheum's doors early Friday evening. The mid April sun beat down on mildly perspiring heads, but Mother Nature could not compare to the hot lights and sweltering sounds that left The Decemberists' audience drenched to the bone.

I hold the opinion that a good show needs theatrics -- defined as " the art of staging plays and other stage performances." This has garnered me some flak from readers who think all musicians need to do at a show is play music.

However, I believe that once a band goes on tour, they become not only musicians, but also performers. Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star has been hard pressed to get on a stage that doesn't make her band any less important; some bands are just made purely for the studio. Point is, if a band is going to go on stage, I want it to be worth my penny, not just a re-creation of playing my CD at maximum volume.

The Decemberists proved a band does not need pyrotechnics, confetti guns or puppets to be visibly captivating. All that's necessary is a passion for the music and a love for the act of performing.

The Decemberists took to the stage like steamboat musicians in Dixieland, making khakis look cool for once. Front and center stood lead singer Colin Meloy. His slightly nasal/emo voice rang with a conviction that grabbed me by the collar I was going to listen to those fancy lyrics, dammit! Raising his guitar and otherwise proclaiming directives to the crowd, he truly embodied the role of captain on the Orpheum's catamaran like stage.

The rest of the band was equally invested in the performance and nothing proved it better than the electrifying "The Mariner's Revenge Song." This rocking sea shanty clocked in at well over 10 minutes but was blistering from start to finish.

Blindfolded drummer John Moen played marching band beats that rumbled the walls; cute Jenny Conlee played accordion, cooed, and pranced; guitarist Chris Funk became the most huggable, terrifying whale between strumming; and Meloy and smug upright bass player Nate Query jigged until everyone ended up in a pile on the ground. Did I mention that the crowd also participated with blood curdling screams of rapturous joy?

The musical hodgepodge with influences ranging from Irish folk to Pink Floyd -- provided a little something for everyone.

I've never heard a band that sounds completely original (there are always hints of influences creeping in), but The Decemberists have a way of packing in so many varieties it is nearly impossible to find clear-cut copy-catting before the ears are piqued to something new. (Oddly, the new Wilco album seemed to be echoed in various forms this evening, which leaves many questions for Mr. Tweedy and Co.)

Some onlookers grumbled about the lengthiness of songs. But mostly mouths were agape with admiration.

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