By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 07, 2011 at 8:39 AM

I came to The Decemberists via a mutual love for The Smiths. I liked Colin Meloy's sardonic voice and witty approach. I liked the short, smart, stylized, melodic songs, with the occasional foray into longer territory.

But by the time the Portland, Ore., band's last record, "The Hazards of Love," I was starting to lose faith. There was exactly one tune I could sink my teeth into. The rest felt like exactly the kind of overblown, self-indulgent music that punk and post-punk bands (like The Smiths) rallied against. Suddenly, things -- like "The Tain" -- that had seemed like quirky diversions began to appear to be a new direction.

So, when "The King is Dead" -- clearly a reference to The Smiths' 1986 masterwork, "The Queen is Dead" -- arrived a couple weeks back, I was very pleased. Packed again with the kind of tuneful, focused music that originally hooked me, I suddenly felt the need to go see The Decemberists live again.

On Saturday night at The Riverside, the band -- with Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins on board -- was on task playing a range of its best songs from a decade-long career, with, of course, a focus on "The King is Dead."

Only a couple songs from "The Hazards of Love" made it into the set list and one of them was the thundering and brilliant "The Rake's Song" (the other was the turgid, "Won't Want for Love" ... bathroom break).

I quibble with opening with "Leslie Ann Levine" and following it with "Don't Carry It All." The latter is such a strong opener to "The King is Dead" that it would also make a brilliant set opener, but I digress.

The band clearly had a good time -- it always seems to -- romping through 18 songs, two encores included, with the usual quippy Meloy banter in between.

Although the Riverside was packed to the gills, Meloy's easygoing approach made the night seem intimate and ensured that the audience felt involved and had a great time, too.

Here's the set list:

Leslie Anne Levine
Don't Carry It All
Calamity Song
Rise to Me
Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)
The Bagman's Gambit
Grace Cathedral Hill
Down By the Water
Rox In The Box
Won't Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)
Crane Wife Part 3
The Rake's Song
July, July!
16 Military Wives
This Is Why We Fight

Encores:
A Cautionary Song
The Mariner's Revenge Song
June Hymn

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.