Best Coast and the Decemberists — who teamed up Tuesday night to play the first Celebrate Brooklyn! benefit concert at Prospect Park — seem to be unlikely touring mates.
Bethany Cosentino makes songs about boys, weed, and her cat Snacks (in that order), and has no qualms rhyming “lazy” with “crazy” more than once per record. This isn’t criticism — Crazy for You was a delight in large part because we could empathize, except for the whole cat-talking thing. We are just noting the contrast, because Colin Meloy is a distinctly different type, for instance, describing a camisole as "sprightly light magenta."
A Best Coast-Decemberists twin bill is indeed rather incongruous. Best Coast make music that washes over its audience live, a wave of fuzzy electric guitar and Cosentino’s prettily drawn-out syllables; on the other hand, the Decemberists’ folk music, regardless of tempo, is much more immediate and immersive.
There’s only a handful of bands touring today that benefit more from playing under a sunny sky than Best Coast — just check out the cover of Crazy for You, which makes up most of their set list on any given night — making the clouds over Prospect Park that much more disappointing.
To Cosentino’s credit, the strength of her band’s live show depends largely on her voice, in which she has considerably more confidence than she did even six months ago. There’s enough sonic continuity on Crazy for You that the standouts on record are also standouts live; the three-song run of “Boyfriend,” “The End,” and pre-album single “When I’m With You” was the highlight of their short set. But the persistent rain — which sent some spectators to the exits and the rest under cover of umbrellas — sapped the concert of the kind of bliss that a pleasant summer evening could have enhanced.
By the time the Decemberists took the stage around 9 p.m., the rain slowed, then stopped, and the cloud cover parted somewhat.
Meloy is certainly bookish on record, but he’s a warm and personable presence in concert, directing plenty of banter toward the audience throughout their two-hour set. As has become a habit of late, he wryly dedicated apocalyptic The King Is Dead track “Calamity Song,” replete with a truly outstanding Infinite Jest allusion, to the presidential campaign of Michelle Bachman.
He introduced another cut from their latest album, “Rise to Me,” by well-wishing cancer-stricken bandmate Jenny Conlee, and asked that the stage be “bathed” in red light before launching into the depraved “The Rake’s Song.”
While their 20-song set often threatened to lag under the weight of too many midtempo numbers — the menacing stomp of “The Rake’s Song” was a welcome respite — the Prospect Park crowd was never anything less than reverent.
The end of the set saw Meloy coaxing various cohorts into acoustic jams, the sort of gesture that really shouldn’t work — the Decemberists aren’t particularly tight or inventive as musicians, and the main draw is Meloy’s hyperliterate tales. But it does anyway, thanks to a genuine rapport with their audience that Meloy actually jokes about, as though acknowledging it would be presumptuous.
The Decemberists deserve their share of goodwill, and their willingness to reciprocate — in the form of two encores — probably ensures an ever-appreciative fanbase.