You know you're getting older when you're more excited to go see a band because you're interested in the early 20th century architecture of the venue. The Decemberists played last night at Hammerstein Ballroom, and when I was offered free tickets, the first thing I did was look up the venue, and so discovered that it has a lovely architectural history as an old opera house. I spent the last few songs of the set admiring the intricacies of the ceiling design and the gentle curve of the balconies from our comfortable mezzanine seats.
Not that the band wasn't drawing my attention. In fact, they were a phenomenal live act. I didn't count myself as a huge fan before, despite owning two of their albums, and I had to rely on my concert-going companion, who is a fan, to narrate their history, including the influence of The Smiths on their music (apparent even before the lead singer, Colin Meloy, broke into "The Queen Is Dead" as he conducted a dance contest in various sections of the huge, packed venue in the middle of "The Perfect Crime #2"), and the fact that they are into reenactment. I was waiting for a reenactment of the Decembrist revolt - I've found myself typing "Decembrists" whenever I try to spell the band's name; I studied my fair share of Russian history in college, and this is the first way I learned to spell it - and instead we were treated to a reenactment of another battle in military history involving Russians: The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Audience participation can often be the most awkward thing on earth, but The Decemberists were able to lead their fans in vocal warm-ups without the least bit of squirming on my part (I even found myself joining in). It was very endearing; Meloy seems to really know his fans. And his fans absolutely adore him: during "16 Military Wives", he was able to biblically part the sea of the crowd for an old-fashioned singing battle. As the crowd came back together at its climax, the forward rush of bodies gave the impression that the entire floor of the old opera house had metamorphosized into one giant wave, perilously headed for the shores of the stage to drench Meloy and crew in a great shower of admiration. It made the show truly memorable.
And darnit if I won't be singing "The Queen Is Dead" all day. (We can go for a walk where it's quiet and dry, and talk about precious things...)