Things have been trending a little dark in Meloy’s more recent songs. Among the three played from the “I’ll Be Your Girl,” was “Sucker’s Prayer,” about an impending drowning suicide and the lament “I wanna love somebody but I don’t know how” (whose desperation was undercut by fans lustily singing along). “Rusalka, Rusalka / The Wild Rushes” also had a theme of diving to the bottom and facing death. “Severed” had the divisive tone of a recent politician. 

At the same time there’s an uplift and drive in the musical approach from a band — which includes Nate Query on bass and John Moon on drums — that has maintained a consistent, committed membership for 17 years. 

While Meloy stayed with acoustic guitar center stage where he dominated with his reedy vocals, the musicians around him built and built on his tuneful anthems. 

A big asset to the tour was Lizzy Ellison, of the bands Cardiod and Radiation City. She played additional keyboards and banged a tambourine but really took the spotlight when she took the queen’s solo on “The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid,” bringing the same kind of power Shara Worden did on the original recording on “The Hazards of Love.” It was the one moment when an individual effort got its own ovation at the show.

The previous stop on the tour in New York City had a surprise guest: Lin-Manuel Miranda, who dusted on “Ben Franklin’s Song,” a “Hamilton” outtake he had written with the band. The Decemberists in Wolf Trap were able to provide a satisfying show without such unexpected star power. 

Solid musicianship is what the opening act Jake Xerxes Fussell is all about. A fingerpicking expert from Columbus, Ga., he also had the knack of picking terrific songs to perform from a version of Duke Ellington’s “Jump for Joy” to start to the traditional “Jubilee” he said he picked up from a Jean Richie album (“Any Jean Richie fans here?”). 

The choicest stuff were songs that reflected the sublime oddity of the South and the poetry of obscure blues, such as his tasty closing query, “Have You Ever Seen Peaches growing on a Sweet Potato Vine?” 

The setlist for The Decemberists was:

  • “The Infanta”
  • “Calamity Song”
  • “Sucker’s Prayer”
  • “Song for Myla Goldberg”
  • “Shiny”
  • “Burial Ground”
  • “The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid”
  • “The Sporting Life”
  • “The Crane Wife 1 & 2”
  • “Severed”
  • “Down by the Water”
  • “Rusalka, Rusalka / The Wild Rushes”
  • “I Was Meant for the Stage”
  • “June Hymn”
  • “Sons & Daughters”

The setlist for Jake Xerxes Fussell was:

  • “Jump for Joy”
  • “Push Boat” 
  • “Jubilee” 
  • “The River St. James” 
  • “Love Farewell”
  • “Have You Ever Seen Peaches Growing on a Sweet Potato Vine?”