The Decemberists played Roadrunner – 5/1

Colin Meloy and company made their way back to Roadrunner to preview their forthcoming new record, with support from Chicago’s Ratboys.


You’d be forgiven for assuming a few things about a new Decemberists album in 2024. The Pacific Midwest folk-rockers’ last three full-lengths – 2011’s The King is Dead, 2015’s What a Beautiful World, What a Terrible World and 2018’s I’ll Be Your Girl – tended towards the concise and straightforward side of the band’s songwriting style. The baroque flourishes. lengthy songs and general eccentricities that characterized their records up through 2009’s prog-influenced rock opera The Hazards of Love were often reigned in, and there wasn’t necessarily a reason to guess the forthcoming As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again would change things up too dramatically. “Joan in the Garden” – the double album’s 20-minute second single, which comprised the entirety of the band’s encore at their recent Roadrunner appearance – would beg to differ.

A proper multi-part epic ranging from anthemic heights to space-y ambient exploration, “Joan” signals, at least in part, the return of a Decemberists missed by many; an iteration of the band that really goes for broke. That spirit carried throughout the Roadrunner show, which touched on Hazards‘ muscular rockers, both the eerie side (sinister lullaby “Shankhill Butchers”) and titular folktale of 2006’s The Crane Wife, and other fan-favorites (including an extended “Sixteen Military Wives” singalong). A handful of other singles and the unreleased “Long White Veil” also previewed the new record, exhibiting considerably less sprawl than its closing track but still boasting some of frontman Colin Meloy’s sharpest melodies in recent memory.

Meloy and the band – expanded from their traditional five-piece to a septet with multi-instrumentalists Lizzy Ellison and Victor Nash on hand – were in high spirits and fine form throughout the night. And in contrast to the rather spartan look and feel of their set at the same venue back in 2022, the band were flanked with lush backdrops, plants and a vibrant light show to complement the invigoration of their imminent record – slated for a June release. I’ll admit, it’s the most excited I’ve been for new Decemberists in a minute.

Openers Ratboys – a blog favorite – charmed as always with a set of their irresistible indie rock, which went over well with a packed early-arrival crowd. Check out photos from both sets below.