That the Decemberists released a full-fledged concept album came as a surprise to approximately no one. For the highly literate, folk-indebted quintet, the recent release of the rock opera The Hazards of Love is as shocking a move as, say, Rufus Wainwright's tribute album to Judy Garland. But such inevitability doesn't dull the sharpness and precision of the product. The band's mix of treachery-laden folk tales and increasingly heavy, nearly proggy instrumentation has been in play since 2004's The Tain EP, but Hazards proves that lead singer Colin Meloy is capable of creating his own universe populated by shape-shifters, vengeful queens and drowned babies. On this tour the Decemberists will play the album start to finish with the aid of My Brightest Diamond's Shara Worden and Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark, who both play characters on the disc. Afterward, the band will play a set of its lighter fare, featuring songs about barrow boys, engine drivers and wayward hustlers.
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