Gig review: Decemberists, Glasgow

“You can hear that on the radio, apparently,” mused the Decemberists’ singer and driving creative force Colin Meloy after the urgent indie jangle of their most recent single Make You Better had died down. “On dusty corners of the radio.” The implication is that they’re a connoisseur’s choice and he’s modest enough to admit it, but that lies somewhat at odds with experience and the evidence of our own eyes.

Connoisseurs choice Colin Meloy of The Decemberists filled out the Academy in Glasgow on Friday night. Picture: Getty

Decemberists - Academy, Glasgow

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After a decade as well-liked indie-rock footsoldiers, the Portland, Oregon group’s sixth album The King is Dead unexpectedly topped the American charts in 2011, with this year’s much-awaited follow-up What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World receiving critical acclaim and a top ten placing of its own. Meanwhile, those fans who have afforded them such success clearly love them so much they can fill out a good-sized venue like this, while greeting them with genuine adulation. In this context, admiration for the best of the band’s work is tempered somewhat by a sense of ‘emperor’s new clothes’ where they explore more esoteric territory.

On the one hand there were genuine anthems here, with a rootsy, heart-pounding sense of Arcade Fire-style emotive theatrics to Make You Better, Calamity Song and O Valencia!, while Carolina Low’s stripped-back balladry and the swooning female harmonies and vaguely Bacharach romance of Los Angeles, I’m Yours was also perfectly winning. On the flipside, however, stood the widdly roots-rock of The Island and the self-conscious folk classicisms of The Rake’s Song and The Legionnaire’s Lament, which add up to a diverse sonic palette on record but here unavoidably remind of the Levellers or Green Day in a rustic mood.

Seen on 13 February