octopo ho!

Colin MeloyResiding on an isthmus, the people of Madison, WI can’t help but love a good sea chantey. Lucky for them, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists brought his hyper-literate musical tales to the Barrymore Theatre on April 23, 2008.

The stage was of a simple set-up: a few guitars, a couple of microphones, and a table complete with a bottle of red wine and a framed picture of a sock puppet. Meloy took the stage and filled the remaining space with his signature vocals and oodles of charm.

Some may have had doubts about Meloy’s ability to carry The Decemberists’ dense material as a solo act, but the bespectacled troubadour stripped them down and made them his own without losing the integrity of the original arrangements. This occasionally required the employment of the audience as backup singers and instrument impersonators, but the crowd was more than happy to oblige.

In addition to several crowd favorites, the set also included a few surprises. One was a surprisingly moving rendition of soul legend Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” with opener Laura Gibson (a recording of the song is available on the tour-only EP Colin Meloy Sings Sam Cooke). The other was a three-part supersong from The Decemberists’ forthcoming album, set for recording later this year. The song has been referred to as “Hazards of Love” and can be heard here.

On the whole, the night was a cozy sing-along, replete with intimate interaction between Meloy and his followers. Laughs were had, requests were taken, and the crowd was treated to the ever-so-rare feeling in live music that they were sharing a night with a roomful of friends rather than an anonymous gathering of individuals dominated by the untouchables on stage.

PARTIAL SET LIST: Hazards of Love, Cupid, The Sporting Life, Red Right Ankle, The Engine Driver, The Perfect Crime #2