London, Hammersmith Apollo
The frontman of Bluegrass-spouting Mumford & Sons once postulated folk music was the voice of social duress, its popularity highlighted by economic hardship. And he ain’t folking joking. Last year, The Decemberists were the name-drop reserve of indie credheads. One recession later, they’re topping the US album charts and the Apollo is rammed with manky proles all arguing over who saw them first.
The crowds may have changed; the venues swelled; but on this massive stage, they remain endearingly tinker-like, their makeshift set-up countering the grandiose surroundings. Of course, that’s not to say The Decemberists lack splendour; Won’t Want For Love, featuring violinist Rebecca Stark’s yearning vocals, showcases their aptitude for understated melodrama, while frontman Colin Meloy carries the show from beginning to end with the witty effortlessness of a Shakespearean prologue. In fact, with an encore of slapstick vaudeville set to Celtic-tinged shanties, The Decemberists exeunt stage right with a thespian bravado that banishes the notion of reality with idealist warmth only this kind of renaissance folk can provide.
And if this is the sound of economic hardship, I’m going long on depression – and loving every skint minute of it.