The Decemberists @ Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC

Live Reviews | By on Nov 6th, 2006

Opening Bands: Alistair Roberts
Date: November 3rd 2006
Venue: Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC

Ever been to a show where a bunch of things happen that just immediately take you out of the show? Well that’s what happened for the Decemberists concert at Hammerstein Ballroom. I’ll be complaining like I always do in my reviews so I’m just warning you know.

I wanted to get into Manhattan early to beat the traffic but that wasn’t the case. But I don’t think leaving a half hour would have made any difference anyway. I really hate the George Washington Bridge sometimes, I really do. Can’t someone just invent teleporting already so we don’t have to pay 6 bucks to sit in traffic? I wanted to get to the venue early because I was supposed to have a photo pass. I was told there wasn’t going to be a photo pit so I had to sit with the crowd to take pictures. This is a big hassle for several reasons, because I’m always afraid of getting my camera smashed. Plus it’s a pain in the ass working your way up to the front of the crowd, which I’ll find out later on in the evening.

When I finally got to the venue, I was told to go inside to will call to get my photo pass. Well to make the long story short, my name wasn’t on the list (again) and I called up the publicist number. Yeah well, what do you know…no answer (twice). I ended up sneaking my camera bag in anyway since I already passed security, but didn’t take pictures. I saw other people taking pictures with their cell phones and crappy digital cameras but I didn’t want to get thrown out. Plus it would make no sense taking pictures all the way in the back, which is where I was standing.

I never been to Hammerstein Ballroom before but I don’t think I’ll be going back there anytime soon. The venue sucks because you can barely see the band on stage. Anywhere you stood, you can only see the top of the heads of the band members. The opening band was Alistair Roberts from Scotland. The music was slow acoustic folk and it didn’t really fit the venue size. I think the music was okay but would be more fitting for a small venue or pub; where you can sit down and enjoy the music that way. This was Roberts first night on the tour and played a few songs until the Decemberists came on stage.

My friends and I were complaining about not being able to see the stage that much in the general admission standing area. I told them I was gonna try to move closer to see (what people do at shows). The venue filled up a lot now and it was hard to maneuver anywhere on the floor. I was still being nice and moving out of the way when someone wanted to go ahead of me or leave the floor. But for some reason, I just kept getting a weird vibe from this crowd. I never been to a Decemberists concert before so I didn’t know what type of crowd this would be. I’m not sure what it was, it might be that they were all a bunch of people trying to look like a substitute teacher. You know the look: blazer or corduroy jacket, jeans, converse, sweater and collard shirt underneath. But the look isn’t complete without your Harry Potter scarf or tie. The look gets even funnier if that person has a big bushy beard or emo glasses on. Why do people feel the need to dress like someone they aren’t or to dress like someone just to fit in? Silly rabbit, fads are for kids.

Before the Decemberists came out, the crew set up the stage to the music of Peter and the Wolf. Then the venue went dark and some intellectual-type voice came onto the loudspeaker and said to introduce yourself to the person next to you. My friends and I were looking at each other with weird expressions on our faces, as to what to make of all of this. I decided to turn to my friends and tell them to “fuck off.” Then the Japanese themed backdrop lowered down and the band took the stage. They started with “The Crane Wife 3,” which also starts off the new album as well. The band sounded really good live, and almost identical to how they sounded on CD. Which could be a good or bad thing? After that song, they went into “The Island-Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel The Drowning,” which is about 12 minutes long and reminds me of Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick.”

As soon as that song came on, I took it upon myself to try to get closer to actually SEE the band. I pushed and darted people out of the way and slowly started making my way to the middle. Everyone was pushing me in the back and yelling at me but I didn’t give a shit at this point. It’s a god damn concert, not some pussy coffee house performance where everyone stands in the same spot the whole time and drinks their tea. Or maybe it was and I was in the wrong concert? I was even stepping on peoples’ cups; that’s how comfortable people were that they left their drinks on the floor! Then I came to some stocky guy who I was trying to get around, and he blocked me off! He put up his arm and pushed me back and was yelling at me. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!?? STOP IT!!” I replied with a simple “trying to get closer.” The ass face replies “NO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! STOP!” I sat behind the ass face who denied me, realizing I was in a worse spot than I was before. But now I pissed off 25 percent of the crowd and I felt everyone’s eyes beating at the back of my neck. So I went back to where my friends were and had 2 meatheads blocking me in so I couldn’t go back. They sat there smiling with satisfaction on their face until I plowed through them. I’ve seen other people leave the floor and go into the crowd and people let them through. Why were these two being douchebags? I didn’t really give a shit if I pissed these people off anymore because it’s a concert where there should be dancing going on and some type of movement. I just got this pretentious, better than you vibe from a lot of the people in the crowd. I almost felt like leaving the concert after this because I just didn’t want to be even more miserable than I already was. I found my friends and we went to stand in the back by the bar. We could actually see the whole stage, and hear the music better so we were happy to stand all the way in the back. Plus we could talk to each other and make jokes.

So yeah, back to The Decemberists set. The band put on a good performance but it seemed like they played just about every song from the new album. And they almost seemed to play them all in order, track by track. What’s the fun in that? But maybe the songs were part of that story they told in the Crane Wife album? They played only a handful of old songs like “Engine Driver,” “We Both Go Down Together,” “16 Military Wives” and “Song For Myla Goldberg.” I know they are out there promoting a new album but hearing a few more older songs would have been ideal. From in the back, the band didn’t seem to be that energetic live, but maybe I’ve been to too many punk shows? I’m not use to bands just sitting up there, playing their music and the crowd being completely still. I thought the best songs they played that night were “Sons and Daughters,” “Yankee Bayonet,” “O Valencia,” We Both Go Down Together. ” The Decemberists played an unreleased song from the Crane Wife, but I wasn’t feeling that one. I can see why it didn’t make the album. The band did go into the crowd and do some weird things but I was too far away to really tell what the hell was going on. I was just surprised to see the crowd actually moving from their spots and taking part in the concert. The band came back to do an encore and played some songs from Her Majesty & Castaways and Cutouts.

From not having a photo pass to having a bunch of bookworm pussies in the crowd, I didn’t really like this concert. All that crap just took me out of the concert and honestly, I think I prefer the band on CD more than seeing them live anyway. But I think the Hammerstein Ballroom is the wrong type of venue for the Decemberists to playing in because they seem like a small venue band. Maybe when they aren’t as popular I’ll see them live again.

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