On tour: The Decemberists | 05.17.24, The Pageant

Photo of the Decemberists by Holly Andres

w/ Ratboys | 8:00pm | 6161 Delmar Blvd. | All ages | $42 advance, $45 day of show

The Decemberists were in an odd place when they dropped their last album. Early in their career, the Decemberists crafted indie rock with a decidedly trad-folk vibe, the kind of band that sang acoustic songs about, like, ocean disasters n’ stuff, with literarily influenced lyrics delivered in singer/guitarist/songwriter Colin Meloy’s vibrato-heavy bray. Along the way, the quintet—Meloy, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk, pianist/multi-instrumentalist Jenny Conlee, bassist Nate Query, and drummer John Moen—fleshed out their sound and figured out how to write actual pop songs like “Make You Better” without losing any of their erudite edge. Then came the 2016 presidential election. Devastated by the results, Meloy crafted 2018’s I’ll Be Your Girl, an anxious record exemplified by its lead single “Severed,” a synth-heavy kraut-rock track as dark as its name.

Now six long years later, Meloy and company find themselves confounding expectations just as much on their new album, the band’s ninth and their first in six years. As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again (out June 14th via YABB Records and Thirty Tigers) is a sprawling double album, the longest in the band’s catalog, divided into four “thematic sides.” This era of the Decemberists was announced to the world with “Burial Ground,” a seemingly simple strummy folk tune built on chiming Byrds-y guitars and rich, sunny harmonies (augmented by the Shins’ James Mercer, who joins the backing vocal choir on the track). It’s the only Decemberists song I could imagine Peter, Paul & Mary singing.

And yet this back-to-basics move turned out to be a feint of sorts: accompanying the album announcement was second “single” (which I have yet to hear on the radio) and album closer “Joan in the Garden,” a sprawling 19-minute song suite that blends the story of Joan of Arc with ruminations on the creative process into a song suite that swings from a slowed down version of those “Burial Ground” chiming guitars to ominous Pink Floyd atmospherics to ambient soundscapes to full-on prog-rock while Meloy busts out his best Ozzy Osborne impersonation (no, seriously). In between, there’s sweet, sincere acoustic love songs (“All I Want Is You”), Jayhawks-style alt-country (“Long White Veil”), off-kilter power pop (“Born to the Morning”), and even, I swear to god, actual salsa music, horn stabs and all (“Oh No!”).

And yet, somehow, it all hangs together. All told, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be offers up a rich variety and expands the band’s sound without offering up any missteps. Even though the album won’t have dropped by the time the band swings by the Pageant, it would be a gift if the setlist leaned heavily into this new material. It’s not every band that you’d say that about as they tour their ninth album.

Be sure to show up on time, too: opening the show is Ratboys, a buzzy indie rock quartet out of Chicago. Their latest release—2023’s The Window, produced by former Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla—boosted the band to a higher level of visibility thanks to single “It’s Alive!” with its fuzzy ‘90s alt-rock guitars and singer-guitarist Julia Steiner’s sharp lyrics and scuffed-up-yet-sweet vocals. If it’s any indication how much I enjoyed The Window, when I put together a playlist of my favorite tracks of 2023, I put “It’s Alive!” front-and-center as the opening track. | Jason Green

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

The Decemberists on tour:

05.15.24 – Austin, TX – Bass Concert Hall

05.17.24 – St Louis, MO – The Pageant

05.18.24 – Milwaukee, WI – Riverside Theater

05.19.24 – St Paul, MN – Palace Theatre – SOLD OUT

05.21.24 – Chicago, IL – Salt Shed – SOLD OUT

05.22.24 – Detroit, MI – Royal Oak Music Theater

05.24.24 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium

07.12.24 – Bend, OR – Hayden Homes Amphitheater^

07.13.24 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater

07.14.24 – Los Angeles, CA – The Bellwether – SOLD OUT

07.15.24 – Los Angeles, CA – The Bellwether

07.18.24 – San Diego, CA – Humphreys – SOLD OUT

07.19.24 – Tucson, AZ – Rialto Theater

07.20.24 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren

07.22.24 – Santa Fe, NM – The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing

07.23.24 – Denver, CO – The Mission Ballroom

07.24.24 – Sandy, UT – Sandy Amphitheater

07.26.24 – Missoula, MT – Kettlehouse Amphitheater

07.27.24 – Spokane, WA – Spokane Pavilion

07.29.24 – Vancouver, BC – Queen Elizabeth Theatre

07.31.24 – Seattle, WA – Woodland Park Zoo Amphitheatre* – SOLD OUT

07.31.24 – Seattle, WA – Woodland Park Zoo Amphitheatre* – SOLD OUT

08.02.24 – Bellingham, WA – Mount Baker Theatre

08.03.24 – Troutdale, OR – McMenamins Edgefield*

08.25.24 – London, UK – All Points East

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