The Decemberists

A Practical Handbook

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This is a superbly shot, edited, and recorded live DVD, from Portland, OR's ornate Roseland Theater, November 4, 2005. Even missing the megawatt thrills of later Crane Wife material, this unedited concert -- bolstered for homecoming triumph by violin/vocals from Petra Haden, a sharp three-piece horn section, and an encore cameo from Pac NW legend and onetime Young Fresh Fellow Scott McCaughey -- shows why they are the best time going. Though the whole shebang is absorbing, those somehow still unimpressed or requiring revelation can skip to the final five epic selections. They're not only a fabulous, elastic band with wonderful songs; they also spew spontaneous, madcap comedy, like an ever-updating theater troupe drawing big laughs to go with wildly spontaneous performances. As ever, you won't know who to watch: Jenny Conley's bedazzling grin/glee? Colin Meloy's sly merrymaking? John Moen's nutty clowning? Chris Funk's wry bemusement? All of them falling over each other? And what a game audience! Watching 1400 people sway hither and thither, pogo, Cossack dance, scream, laugh, hoot, and clap is as pleasurable as the band, especially during the epic, awesome "Mariner's Revenge Song." The crowd's feigned death/sleep then rise as the band kicks back in the finale of "The Chimbley Sweep" is a visual knockout. Finally, a pleasurable documentary Paris Before the War chronicles band origins and the unusual making of the Picaresque LP, as well as five videos (one outstanding, "16 Military Wives," and two with truly striking animation), making Practical a joy for anyone who has never seen them or wants to again.

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