Colin Meloy at the Woman's Club, 11/13/13
|Photo By Kyle Matteson|
With Eleanor Friedberger
The Woman's Club Theater, Minneapolis
November 13, 2013
During the final stop of his fall solo tour, Colin Meloy proved that he can be clever and comical even without his merry band of Decemberists by his side. Perhaps even more so, since it was just him, an acoustic guitar, and a trusty bottle of red wine on the spartan Woman's Club stage throughout the highly entertaining 90-minute performance.
Meloy was in a jocular mood all evening, telling humorous stories to introduce nearly every number, while delivering an 18-song set filled with stirring, impassioned material from throughout the Decemberists' catalog (with three new songs and a Kinks cover thrown in) that highlighted his imaginative, penetrating lyrics and rich, resonant vocals, which easily filled the intimate theater and won over the hearts of the packed house.
"It's cold in here," Meloy announced as he unassumingly took the stage to a loud ovation. "So, I advise you to snuggle close to your neighbor, maybe introduce yourself first. Preferably to the neighbor that you don't know." After encouraging us all to sing along with him throughout the show -- since this is part of what he's calling a cozy, campfire tour -- he started with a rather droll new song, the pompously titled "The Singer Addresses His Audience," which turned out to be a lark, referencing a drummer's hairstyle (in a subtle nod to Pavement, perhaps) and Axe shampoo. It was a heady balance between the outright goofy and sublime, which actually carried on throughout the scintillating performance.
"July, July!" got things going emphatically, with the crowd gradually warming to the idea of singing along, the steady prodding of Meloy helping us along. "You look a little buttoned up, Minneapolis," he teased. "I know we're in the Woman's Club, and there's probably ghosts of Edwardian schoolmarms floating about the place telling you to behave." Meloy shared the inspiration behind many different songs throughout the set, but it wasn't too difficult to figure out what caused him to write the next number. "This song started out as a way for me to get my son to eat some food," he explained amusingly, before treating us to the little ditty "Hank, Eat Your Oatmeal," with Meloy also working in naan bread to the simple but catchy number.
That silly track flowed smoothly into a rousing version of the R.E.M.-echoing "Calamity Song," and from there the night truly became special. Lest we think Meloy takes himself or his precious songs too seriously, he admonished himself before a riveting version of "The Soldiering Life" by saying, "This is my first time doing this intro -- it's not very good." A glorious rendition of "Oceanside" quickly followed, with Meloy mentioning that some seats were available right up front if people wanted to move up -- fans quickly snatched them up, though later the rightful seatholders would arrive and Meloy would scold himself for giving away someone else's seats.
"This is the fourth solo tour that I've embarked on since 2005," Meloy announced, mentioning that he originally thought of doing a Morrissey covers EP to mark the occasion. "I've been shackled with the obligation ever since. Be careful what you wish for -- I'm not even sure that applies in this case." [It doesn't.] On this tour, Meloy has offered up an EP of him singing covers of the Kinks, and while his rendition of their Village Green Preservation Society classic, "Do You Remember Walter?" was amazing, sadly it was the only Kinks track Meloy would play during the set.
A truly touching take on "June Hymn" followed a revealing story in which Meloy described a house he and his family moved into in Portland, a place that inspired him to write two albums and three books, but they just sold it and moved to a big farm. "June Hymn" was written at that old house, and the harmonica-laden song took on a poignant, bittersweet air as it washed gracefully over the crowd. But before things got too sentimental, Meloy switched up guitars for a rocking version of "Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)," which caused him to reflect afterward. "It occurred to me that we did The Hazards of Love just across the street at the Walker Art Center," he said, referencing the Decemberists' headlining set at Rock the Garden in 2009. "I strolled around there today. I saw some weird things by some weird people that made me feel pretty weird. It's a lovely place -- you're lucky to have it here."
Gorgeous, stunning versions of "Engine Driver" and "On the Bus Mall" proved to be high points of the show, before Meloy played two new songs for us. The first one, currently called "Philomena," is "My take on 'Blurred Lines,'" Meloy joked. "Every male artist should have something like this in his proverbial quiver. Who knows, maybe it will become a summer jam?" The bawdy song had some strong sexual undercurrents, which Colin addressed flippantly. "Playing that song in the Woman's Club likely gave it the extra dimension it needed. You can hear the Edwardian ladies titter." The other new number Meloy offered up, "Lake Song," had welcome echoes of Nick Drake threaded throughout the melody and vocal style as well as mentions of honeydew worked into a pop song, which is no small feat.