February 18, 2007

The Decemberists - Postbahnhof, 14 February

It may seem excessive that we travelled to Berlin to see The Decemberists, especially since they are playing in Amsterdam, but it makes perfect sense to me. I was determined to see two of their European shows, one besides Amsterdam, and we chose Berlin since we'd never been there before. Paris probably would have been preferable in terms of distance, but that show is the night after Amsterdam so it would have been difficult to get there and see the show the very next day.

But I have no regrets about going to Berlin, despite sitting for over 6 hours, one way, in a not-very-comfortable train. The show was brilliant and worth every penny we spent to travel there.

When we entered the venue, they actually had two guys checking your bag, which they just don't do in the Netherlands. So my bottle of water got confiscated, which is just stupid, but my camera was allowed, I guess since it's rather small. O's camera, however, was of course taken, and he told the guy that he knew the tour manager and they would let him have it. This wasn't 100% true, but when his camera was taken from him in Cologne, he asked the merchandise guy for help and was able to get his camera back. So once again we talked to the guy at the merchandise table, a guy named Ian who I'd heard was really nice. And yeah, as soon as O explained the situation, Ian was really surprised that they were taking people's cameras at the door and said he'd have a word with the door guy. It was awesome and O soon had his camera again.

In the meantime we met this American girl hanging around next to the merch table who was in Germany as an exchange student. She called herself the oldest 16-year-old in the world, though I was surprised when she said she was only 16. But then she didn't believe O when he said he wasn't American. She was chatting to just about anyone, especially if she heard them speaking English, and she ended up standing next to us for most of the show. I think she talked to about half the crowd by the time the night was over.

So, the setlist:

The Island
July, July
Engine Driver
Billy Liar
Shankill Butchers
O Valencia
16 Military Wives
Crane Wife 1, 2, and 3!
Sons and Daughters

Red Right Ankle
Chimbley Sweep

Cautionary Song

I hope I can enjoy The Island more in Amsterdam because I had this big, sweaty guy next to me taking a ton of photos and shoving his lens next to my face and then shoving himself in front of me. I assume he was a professional, but that doesn't mean you need to be so pushy to the people there to see the band. Fortunately he pissed off after The Island, but I had a hard time enjoying the song.

During Sons and Daughters, the band pulled a bunch of people onto the stage to help with singing the final refrain, and O was one chosen to go up. He got this great photo while he was up there, and then a hug from Colin at the end of the song. I was taking videos with my camera but my card was full just after O went on stage, so I wasn't able to record him up there.

Chimbley Sweep was similar to when they performed it in Amsterdam last May. Chris handed his guitar off to a guy volunteered by his friends (one of the English guys standing very near to us) and Colin gave his guitar to a girl who was just in front of us. They tried jamming a bit on stage. Then there was John singing a song I didn't know and Jenny singing a song about Loch Lomond... Eventually they decided that John and their sound guy should be crowd-surfed to the back of the room, so John went on his way over the crowd, soon followed by the sound guy going face down. But when John got about halfway back, he was close enough to a low rafter to grab on to it and just hang off of it for awhile. O has this photo of him being monkey-like.

We would not go away after the first encore until the band came back for one more song, which was Cautionary Song with a reenactment of the story of St Valentine. They finished the encore, after the near-endless Chimbley Sweep, and the lights sort of came up and guys came out to turn instruments off, but we cheered and cheered and no one made a move for the doors and people started chanting "Encore!" in German so the roadies came back out and turned the instruments back on and eventually after more and more cheering the band came back on stage and played Cautionary Song. I was screaming my fool head off, I'm surprised I didn't lose my voice, especially since I had a cold and my throat was already a bit fucked. And then Cautionary Song went on forever, what with the reenactment in the middle.

The reenactment involved John and a couple of audience people as Philistines (though no one would join him at first, leading him to wonder if it was because no one knew what a Philistine was), and Chris and a couple of audience members as Sarazens, and Lisa as St Valentine. The Philistines sold Chris' group "trivets and things like... small toaster ovens" as Colin narrated, but then St Valentine started doing the same and the Philistines got angry and they attacked (here the groups collided into a heap), but then afterwards there was love and everyone was happy with each other. Or something. That was the general gist of it. Then John, Chris and Lisa climbed back on stage and the band carried on with the final verse of the song.

Some other bits I remember... Colin forgot where he was in O Valencia and he jumped to the end of the song when there was the last verse to go still. The rest of the band was playing the right part of the song and it sounded weird for a sec and then Colin gave this big, end-of-song strum on his guitar, but the band played on and he realized his mistake. Doh...

Colin was babbling after one song that they were going to play a bunch of songs, that's how it works, in case someone in the crowd had never been to a show before. Then he kept expanding it, saying maybe there were people there who had never been out of the house before, or maybe people who'd never seen other people before and they were now realizing they are not the only person on the earth and awing at the wide spectrum of humanity, and their music was the soundtrack to this.

This was my 3rd Decemberists show and probably the one I've had the most fun at. I did feel that by the end the audience had bonded a bit and gone through this great experience. The show in Amsterdam is going to have to do a lot to live up to this one, but I'll have a bunch of friends in tow and for a few of them it'll be their first Decemberists show. I can almost guarantee they'll be impressed.