Two Performance Reviews: Coronado and the Decemberists

2 November 2007

This weekend Beth and I were lucky enough to see two shows: one a theatrical performance, the other a rock show. We had a great time, since we don’t go out that much since the Little Guy became our boss.

Coronado, by Dennis Lahane: produced by Steep Theatre Company

This play, by the author of Mystic River, is being produced by Steep Theatre Company. We know a few people in it, and so we wanted to see it. I went in knowing nothing about the plot itself, and I came away quite impressed.

Divided into two acts, I was a bit confused at intermission. The first act takes place in a bar, the action between alternating between three different scenes involving different characters. Time seemed to be progressing in one scene, while in the others it was unclear how much time, if any, was passing. As the second act progressed, however, the connections between the scenes became clear.

While some aspects of some performances could have been toned down a bit —the play deal with murder, deceit, adultery, and other heavy issues, so the material is dramatic enough— I was impressed by the production. The play attempts to take one small decision, the kind of spur-of-the-moment decision that happens to us all the time, and show how many things, many of them quite bad, result from this choice. I think most would agree that the decision, even without the repercussions we see in Coronado, was a bad one, but rarely do such decisions have such long-lasting, far-reaching, and devastating shockwaves.

The Decememberists at the Vic

I have seen the Decemberists three times now, all in different contexts: once at Pitchfork, once in Grant Park with the Grant Park Symphony, and now at the Vic. The Vic is similar to other relatively small venues in the Chicagoland area, most readily comparable to the Metro or the Riviera.

The Decemberists are one of the more innovative bands out there, capable of penning a poppy, catchy tune or a long, epic ballad of love, jealousy, murder, and revenge. This tour, called “The Long of It, and the Short of It,” attempts to showcase this virtuosity. At each stop, the band will play two shows, one will have only long , epic songs and the other only short, poppy songs. Beth and I got to see “The Long of It,” and we were not disappointed.

The show began with “The Crane Wife, Parts 1, 2, & 3.” “The Crane Wife, Part 1” begins with an acoustic guitar and vocal, to which a cello is soon added, followed by some keyboards, then drums, and then another guitar. The various members of the Decemberists, Colin Molloy, Jenny Conlon, Chris Funk, and the others came on stage just before their part began. Once the whole band was in on the song, stagehands ripped down a black scrim behind the stage to reveal a huge, Bayeux Tapestry-like backdrop. The overall effect of the opening was quite impressive; since this was the first show of the tour, this was presumably the first time they had tried in front of a live audience.

“The Crane Wife,” was followed by “The Island,” “California One/Youth & Beauty Brigade,” “I Was Meant for the Stage,” one other song I didn’t recognize, and a satisfying encore culminating in the usual “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.”

While hearing six or seven songs of such length can be a little tedious —there’s little variety of length and content, since these songs tend to be more serious— it was quite, quite good. If you can catch them on this tour, do so; it will not disappoint. I wish we could have gone to the “Short of It” show on Monday, but, alas, Beth and I both teach on Monday nights.

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2 Responses to “Two Performance Reviews: Coronado and the Decemberists”

  1. figarobo Says:

    I’ve got to admire a man who can work the word “alas” in 2007. Good seeing you at the poetry gathering.

  2. nobo Says:

    I believe the song you didn’t recognize was a pink floyd cover. Echoes.

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