Live Review: The Decemberists – Central Park Summerstage, NYC

The Decemberists took the stage earlier last week in Central Park NYC and delivered a rejuvenating comeback performance since the Covid-19 pandemic delayed their touring. The threatening rain forecast and clouds held up and the show went on without any hiccups.

The band began the night with a powerful rendition of ‘Leslie Ann Levine’. The ominous acoustic chord progression set the bar for their truly unique indie-folk sound. To keep the energy and jam spirit going, ‘Suckers Prayer’ rocked the audience with its driving drumbeat and singalong lyric feel. This is one of the highlights of the latest Decemberists album from 2018, I’ll Be Your Girl.

With an introductory drum solo with crashing symbols and bass drum kicks, fans burst into cheer as the opening vocals of ‘Song For Myla Goldberg’ followed. The Decemberists have many easy to follow lyrics and Melodies that make the songs easy to sing along to. And especially with a hometown nod with lyrics like “I know New York I need New York, I know I need unique New York”, this number was definitely one of the nights highlights.

Next the band whipped out ‘Shiny’, a deep cut from the early years which was released on The Tain EP. The energy kept rocking, and the rain clouds kept threatening through the uptempo fan favorite ‘Rox In The Box’ from the 2011 release The King Is Dead. Next, lead singer Colin Melody told us to grab our partner and prepare to waltz for a new song entitled ‘William Fitzwilliam’. Keep your eyes peeled for this one on their next (overdue) and hopefully soon to be announced studio album.

Next the band delivered a fun and energized rendition of ‘The Engine Driver’ and then they segued into ‘The Wanting Comes In Waves/Repaid’ from the 2009 album Hazards of Love. After a whole night of prayers to hold up the rain, the band sang “Will we gather to conjure the rain down” on fan favorite singalong ‘Calamity Song’. The fast paced acoustic guitar riff and structure of this song makes it one of the most catchy Decemberists songs to date.

To keep us hooked into the singalong energy, the band turned in a powerful version of ‘Down By The Water’, another Decemberists hit that never disappoints a true fan. To shake things up a bit, next the band put together an edgy, hard rock version of ‘Severed’, another recent Decemberists song from the 2018 I’ll Be Your Girl album. This electric style change kept the energy of the show exciting with a different feel of song.

As the show began to wind down, the band delivered a mellow version of ‘Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes’, which served as a meditative celebration to the rain holding up after hours of threatening forecasts. The band closed their set with a bright rendition of ‘I Was Meant for the Stage’, an aptly named title for one of the best live touring indie rock acts to date.

The band came back onstage for a three song encore, kicking it off with the popular ‘June Hymn’ from the 2011 album The King Is Dead. Then, special guest Broadway star Lin Manuel Miranda surprised us for some vocals on the appropriate ‘Ben Franklin’s Song’ (given his Hamilton Broadway creation). ‘Sons & Daughters’ was the final song of the night and is always a great way to cap off the night. We’re excited to follow the Decemberists and are looking out for their next studio album.

Scott Herman