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Eventim Apollo, London The Portland hipsters have been forging a direct new electronic sound, but still treat a boisterous crowd to their beloved storytelling hits – and a monster surprise The Decemberists are the little band who arguably transformed the town of Portland, Oregon from a cool rock hub to the globally recognised home of facial hair and acoustic guitars. Their love of lyrically rich and history-indebted folk-rock propelled them from outsiders to the top of the US album charts in 2011. A year later, they affirmed their pop culture status by appearing in an episode of the Simpsons as Springfield Elementary’s new music teachers. “Who wants to learn a song about press gangs and infanticide?” deadpan singer Colin Meloy asked of a nonplussed class. Now back in London, Meloy is busy warning the children in the crowd – and their parents – of an onslaught of upcoming swearwords in Ben Hamilton’s Song, but adds: “You’ll get a great history lesson.” So far, so Portlandia. But the Decemberists are changing. Since the 2015 release of What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, the band have been quietly shearing away their trademark storytelling in favour of direct appeals from the heart. Their latest album, I’ll Be Your Girl, is galvanised not by mandolin but steely synths and Peter Hook basslines. Continue reading...