By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Apr 17, 2007 at 10:02 AM

In 2003 The Decemberists' frontman Colin Meloy declared, via the 10th track of "Her Majesty," that he was meant for the stage. That song, while good, always struck me as slightly pompous, but after last night's Pabst performance, it's difficult to deny that not only Meloy, but also all of The Decemberists, were in fact meant for the stage, making the bold claim not a delusion of grandeur, but rather a simple fact.

But that's not to say I didn't have my initial doubts. After a full orchestral recording played to a darkened theater, the band came out and dove immediately into the normally eight-minute (though I think the band pushed it past the ten-minute mark last night) "California One / Youth and Beauty Brigade" and continued its coyish noodling for the better part of the first half hour with nary a word to the audience.

Anything from last year's "Crane Wife" of course got the packed Pabst in an uproar and, eventually, Mr. Meloy morphed into the showman he'd claimed he was. He praised the city -- saying something to the effect of thinking it looked like Munich -- as well as the theater, and seemed genuinely pleased to be playing in a city he'd avoided for the entirely of his musical career.

And the love was nothing if not returned -- it was hard to hear much of his dialogue over the hordes of women, and a few men, screaming, "I love you" down to the stage. The adoration was halted only temporarily after Meloy's playful comment about Wisconsinites suffering from a lack of aerobic activity. Of course, the accusation was met with "boos" though it was obviously just a set up for his mid-show calisthenics session -- an adorable routine led by Meloy that had the entire ground floor doing knee squats, arm raises and jumping. Admittedly, the seating prohibited most people from following his lead and lying on the ground and kick their legs in the air -- but that's not to say they didn't try.

A few sympathetic words about yesterday's Virginia Tech tragedy found Meloy explaining that violence is only meant for fiction and soon had the crowd chanting the closing phase of "Sons and Daughters," "let all the bombs fade away..."

The set ended with the absence of anything from arguably the band's biggest album, 2005's "Picaresque," but the 15-minute encore rendition of "The Mariner's Revenge" was nothing short of a theatrical experience that left us in awe of what a perfect marriage The Decemberists have with the stage.


Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”