So last night we had one of our last resident outings before I leave Baltimore. We went to see a terrific triple billing of Robyn Hitchcock, Andrew Bird, and The Decemberists at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I had high hopes for the arena, mostly because the best reviewed Pitchfork album this year is named after the place.
Sound was OK, arena was OK. Like any number of outdoor venues I've been to. We had seats, which we were thankful for as rain was forecast.
Robyn Hitchcock was OK, not really my thing. Andrew Bird came on, and for the third time that I've seen him, he was utterly brilliant. Just painfully, utterly brilliant. The crowd was just not that into it, which I thought was a bit odd.
Then The Decemberists came out. Now, I think the concept album should have died a deserved death sometime around 1984, when Roger Waters stopped making regular music. The Hazards of Love has some great stuff on it, but there is a lot of repetition and a lot of filler on the album. So maybe, even though I get the whole "concept" nature of it, it would not be the best idea to play it front to back. So that was a bad decision.
But even for the bits that rocked, the crowd was treating this not like a rock show but like friggin' theater. When members of our party got up and danced, we got yelled at to sit down. We were in the seats not on the lawn, so I guess others reasoned that they had paid good money to be able to sit down. But even though it's a concept album, this was not high art. Sorry guys, in the end, it's just rock music. At least give me a head bob. And it's not only the band -- when I saw them in December, the crowd was rocking (but that was at a smaller venue, and they didn't play an entire concept album).
The crowd was a total fun vacuum. Eventually, after getting shushed (yes, shushed at a rock show), we moved to the lawn, where there were at least a few people standing. We sang and head bobbed unmolested for the rest of the show. We watched the "encore" of 5 or 6 old songs and a very odd, but good cover:
At least the lawn got into that. Well, I suppose it speaks to the dangers of a concept album. Let's hope that the Decemberists realize that even when you are playing indie sea shanty music, it's still music that's defined by the phrase "it's got a good beat and you can dance to it."