Decemberists – We All Raise Our Voices To The Air: Live Songs 04.11-08.11

Decemberists - We All Raise Our Voices To The Air

Cover for The Decemberists' We All Raise Our Voices To The Air

Live records can often be hit or miss when it comes to the acts behind them. Judging by the first half minute of We All Raise Our Voices To The Air, before the music even starts, this double-disc Decemberists recording is a hit. Colin Meloy announces before the start of the show that “this is not a Keith Urban concert,” before launching into the Picaresque song The Infanta.

That’s not the last instance of his amusing between-, and sometimes in-song chatter. There are many times in which we are presented with some very amusing, still intelligent but seemingly spontaneous accounts of one-liners that make this tragic-storytelling band very personable and, to put it simply, fun. One of my favourite moments on the disc is during the final moments near the end of We Go Down Together, Colin drags out his “oooh” with intermittent “it’s not over yet -ooh” and “still going -ooh.” Showing that very often, audience interaction can make or break a show and it seems, can further make a live record.

While seven of the songs on this 20-track collection come from their most recent album The King Is Dead, the remaining song selection is compiled of songs from their other five records offering a great mix of their full discography. The real treat is the performance of the three parts of The Crane Wife – together at last, where they are otherwise presented as the anchors on the album of the same name from 2006.

A common problem with live records is that they either don’t capture the full energy that the live act has the ability to put on. That or there’s just a complete lack of context or they aren’t made to be merely listened to without the visuals (ie. a DVD). The Decemberists have somehow managed to avoid all of those problems by delivering a live audio performance that is accompanied by the appropriate mental visuals you’d expect from the band – no DVD required (but would be nice, nonetheless). Having never seen them live before, after hearing this set-list of familiar new songs plus a great selection of the older (and albeit, unfamiliar by me), I would now go out of my way to complete the full experience because as great as they sound here, they must be better tenfold in person. We All Raise Our Voices To The Air might very well be the best live record I’ve ever listened to and once again renews my love for this great band. Five stars

Tracklisting
Disc 1
1. The Infanta
2. Calamity Song
3. Rise To Me
4. The Soldiering Life
5. We Both Go Down Together
6. The Bagman’s Gambit
7. Down By The Water
8. Leslie Ann Levine
9. The Rake’s Song
10. The Crane Wife 1, 2, and 3

Disc 2
1. Oceanside
2. Billy Liar
3. Grace Cathedral Hill
4. All Arise!
5. Rox In The Box
6. June Hymn
7. Dracula’s Daughter/O Valencia!
8. This Is Why We Fight
9. The Mariner’s Revenge Song
10. I Was Meant For The Stage

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