The last two times that the Decemberists have come through Minneapolis, it was in support of their elaborate prog-rock opera The Hazards of Love, with the band playing the album in its entirety each time, only revisiting their older material during the extended encores. This time around, there aren't any high-minded concept albums to support, just the understated majesty of their brilliant new record, The King Is Dead, an album which finds the band indulging their R.E.M. proclivities as well as hearkening back to their whimsically diaphanous early work. Not only do we get to hear these gorgeous new songs performed live for the first time in the area, but a more flexible set list will allow for a comprehensive sampling of the band's outstanding back catalog. An often overlooked aspect of the Decemberists' live show is the fact that frontman Colin Meloy, despite the self-seriousness of his bookish songs, is actually quite funny onstage, continually providing witty asides that will only add to your enjoyment of the performance. But the stellar songs are clearly the main draw here, brought to life by the supremely talented group of musicians that will be joining Meloy (sadly, though, no Peter Buck or Gillian Welch, who contributed significantly to the new record), including Nickel Creek violinist Sara Watkins, who will be handling the majority of Welch's vocal parts on the new songs.
Sun., Feb. 6, 6:30 p.m., 2011