Just as different seasons can dramatically change the colors and temperatures of a landscape, the transformation that four years can bring to a rock band is striking.
Take the Decemberists, a group of idiosyncratic folk-rockers from Portland, Ore., led by Colin Meloy, a fantastical singer-songwriter with an eccentric and abiding fondness for nautical imagery, damsels in distress, and literary allegories that sound as if they've been exhumed from dust-caked tomes in antediluvian sitting rooms.
In four years that have produced as many albums, the band's gone from a jealously guarded, indie-rock semi-secret to something approaching bona fide pop stars, whose peculiar songs -- on Saturday at least -- were loudly cheered and sung by fans before they had barely even begun.
Not so long ago, the Decemberists played clubs here like Avalon. Saturday's all-ages show at the ornate , old Orpheum Theatre was a screaming sellout. Like winter will soon be in these parts, the Decemberists , it seems, are suddenly a gale force upon us.
Treated as a mini - song suite, "The Crane Wife 1&2 " and "The Crane Wife 3 ," all from the band's new album, "The Crane Wife ," heralded what was to come: a lushly orchestral, audaciously dramatic program drawn principally from the new disc, which is also the band's first for its new major label, Capitol Records.
With a baleful, vinegary voice that resembled Robyn Hitchcock's, Meloy switched off between acoustic and electric guitar while leading his multi tasking instrumental crew (which rotated between everything from xylophone to accordion to organ to pedal steel guitars) through a passel of excellent new selections.
Among the highlights were the wicked, warped malevolence of "Shankill Butchers "; a triumphantly upbeat "O Valencia! " ; and perhaps the evening's showpiece, "Sons & Daughters ," which featured a rousing refrain that willed one's imagination to "hear all the bombs fade away" -- a line that Meloy referenced to tomorrow's elections. The song felt like an obstinately hopeful update of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love," a lifeboat swaying and bracing against the cruel sea crashing all around.