First: I'd like it if the other concert-goers contribute their thoughts on the evening, since I can't help but feel that my experience was a bit different.
In case you read this blog and don't know me at all, it's important you know that I'm an enormous animation nerd. I call things Bakshi-esque, does that paint a clear picture for you? (That was a trick question, since if you've heard of Ralph Bakshi you're probably alongside me on the nerd scale). Naturally, when I saw the trailer for The Hazards of Love "visualized," showcasing surreal animated eye candy, I was pretty damn pumped. And I was only slightly let down.
To be sure, what we witnessed was nothing short of the indie-folk-rock equivalent of "Fantasia." But the word "indie" should be stressed, because I can't count the number of times I thought to myself "imagine if they had a real budget for this stuff!"
As a whole, it was lost somewhere between being the ultimate backdrop to a concert and a mediocre music video. Animation has been syncing with music since its heyday, and I was hoping to see some awesome abstract movement working seamlessly with the rhythm of the songs. I realize that's nearly impossible with live music, unless it's actual software like the iTunes Visualizer and not a hand-crafted film. Regardless, at times there was a jarring disconnect between what I was seeing and what I was hearing. But that's my fault for being more interested in the animation than anybody else in the audience.
So let's get real: I'm totally aware that I'm making a big deal out of a tiny complaint. The films worked best when they abandoned any ambition to keep tempo and instead matched the feel and tone (not literally) of the music. The twisted trees and skeleton bones were spot on, and I enjoyed every time we glided through the design-heavy seascapes. I'm also sure I had the stupidest grin on my face watching the adorable dancing constellations for Isn't It A Lovely Night. There were times when I fully lost myself in simultaneous visual and aural euphoria, and that shit doesn't happen every day.
Let's also not forget that the Decemberists are amazing performers, and having too many good things on stage is a great problem to have. It was the very last show of a long tour, and they really let it all hang out. They were having a great time, which made the entire audience feel it. Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond kicked serious ass, and every time she sang I was completely rapt. Hearing her cover Heart's Crazy On You was an unexpected treat, and it was also nice to witness Becky Stark (of that other Diamond band) really belt it, after only hearing her soft crooning as Margaret.
All in all, I left with the same "we were just part of something special" feeling that I felt that special summer day in Central Park. It might have something to do with Colin Meloy's repeated insistence on our participation in singing "Hear All The Bombs Fade Away," but isn't it nice to know that the same trick can work twice on your heart?