Go by The Hazards of Love — the Decemberists’ recent rock-opera–ish album, which sets a narrative about two lovers, a jealous queen, and an evil “rake” to traditional Anglo folk and seventies-style art rock — and you’re sure to figure that the extraordinary regard portioned to singer-songwriter Colin Meloy by aspiring librarians and their happily browbeaten boyfriends has finally gone to his handsomely sideburned head. But last night’s riveting, and indeed, bombastic re-creation of the disc at Radio City Music Hall proved Meloy inflates his music, and not himself. He affably ceded the best songs to the guest singers, who made them so: Lavender Diamond’s Becky Stark and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden.
The diamond twins, they dazzled. Draped in a flowing white outfit, Stark glided across the stage as graceful and unsettling as a ghost, her slender arms floating up and around her body; her lovely voice seeming almost like another ethereal accessory. And Worden? Bounding around like a Karen O without the irony, but maybe with an interest in the life-altering properties of crystals, she unfurled what must be the most powerful voice in indie rock, a voluptuous almost volcanic, wail that had the audience wide-eyed behind their glasses. The second half of the night, after the band had broken The Hazards of Love’s spell and brought out bouncy old favorites, culminated with the most remarkable karaoke this side of the Japanese islands: Worden and Stark ripping the shit out of Heart’s “Crazy on You.” (You may have seen earlier renditions on YouTube.) We half expected the librarians to faint, and the boys to walk out with Algebra books positioned over their flys.