Colin Meloy began the evening with "My Mother was a Trapeze Artist," the first of the many stories he would lead the band to tell over the nearly two-hour-long show. The song comes from the band's EP 5 Songs released in 2003.
It set the tone for the evening – there would be throwbacks, there would be songs from the new album, there would be audience participation.
The band performed its way through a wide range of songs, mostly hits from recent albums The King is Dead and What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World that the audience knew like "Calamity Song," "The Wrong Year," and "Make You Better."
Included was "Why Would I Now?" from the upcoming EP Florasongs. It won't be officially released until October 9, but the band was selling at The Majestic. It is the tale of a lover in an argument acknowledging his short comings and prove that he has no intentions of straying from his love.
The crowd took to its feet when the driving beat from "O Valencia!" filled the theater. The song is a key piece in The Decemberists' repertoire. The singer is in love with Valencia, but as in any classic love story, the lovers are betrayed and Valencia is killed. She dies in the singer's arms as he vows to "burn this whole city down."
The audience clung to every word Meloy sang — the front row was almost laying on the stage — and it was as if they were all prepared to burn Dallas down for more.
The most masterful example of Meloy's writing came in the first encore in which the first four tracks from the 2009 album The Hazards of Love followed by "The Rake's Song" and "The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)" from the same album. The album is the story of Margaret and William's love, illicit child, a kidnapping and ultimately the lovers' demise for their romance.
The album's original tour was the band playing the entire operatic album on stage so the six songs performed from it in Dallas were a real treat.
Meloy returned to stage after the second break to share a story like those he'd sprinkled in between numbers all night long. But this was different. The band, originally from Oregon, woke up Thursday morning in Missouri to the news about the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon.
"You feel helpless away from your home state," Meloy said.
He urged audience members to call their state representatives and governors to tell them that enough is enough and that they are sick of gun violence. Meloy appeared visibly upset to be speaking about the loss of nine innocent lives.
"God bless!" A crowd member yelled out to him.
"Start out by bringing the people you love close to you," Meloy said as he began to strum the opening chords to "12/17/12," a song written in response to the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
As Meloy sang the lyrics:
And oh my God,
What a world you have made here
What a terrible world, what a beautiful world
What a world you have made here
It was impossible to not feel the weight of the words in your gut when considering the lives lost: the spoiled potential; the regrets of words left unsaid; the last moments.
He dedicated the song as well as "Dear Avery" to the families of the victims and to the people of Roseburg, Oregon. The moment added to the intimate nature of the show, despite the theater being packed.
However, ending on such a somber note is not the band's style. They returned to the stage for a third encore of "The Mariner's Revenge Song" from the 2005 album Picaresque.
The song is a tale of a man carrying out his mother's dying wish: to torture and murder her former lover. The boy fulfills this destiny after both men survive being swallowed by a whale — which of course occurred on stage while being voiced by the audience itself.
From Dallas, The Decemberists head to Austin for Austin City Limits. They will play on October 4 and October 11.
Here is the full set list from the Dallas performance: