It’s an unexceptional Monday night in November that sees an audience gathered in the expansive darkness of Glasgow’s O2 Academy. It happens to be Bonfire Night which seems as good an excuse as any to stand around and listen to folk songs, and for this occasion, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more literary story-teller than The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. The communal spirit that his band embodies is alight in their followers too, and from the moment the band walk on stage there’s a warmth in the air. Fans haven’t just come to bear witness, they’ve come to take part.
A joyful opening set by Philadelphia’s Hop Along is encouraged despite the contrasting weight and density of the two band’s sounds. The overall energy is well matched and there can be no doubt the responsibility of the “warm-up act” has been fulfilled.
With his harmonica poised Meloy gives a gracious welcoming salute as the rest of The Decemberists take up their positions. Don’t Carry It All draws directly on the crowd’s in-it-together attitude with some vibrant singing and clapping along right from the outset. It’s apparent early on that fans are elated to see the band again, as song after song is received in similarly boisterous fashion. The first half of the set builds momentum with some catchy choruses and powerful imagery. Blending new songs with the older catalog happens around some of the more angular melodies; Cutting Stone into Shankill Butchers and despite wheeling out these darker themes early on the feeling in the room remains upbeat.