The album opens with the dynamic drama of the song "The Infanta," a line from which its title was taken. The three sections of "The Crane's Wife" played here consecutively in a 16-minute block, unlike the separated sections on the original album, close the first disc. Other highlights include "We Both Go Down Together," "The Bagman's Gambit" and "The Rake's Song." This last cut is the only song from The Hazards of Love album.
The second CD opens with the lilting "Oceanside." Later there's "Dracula's Daughter" which Meloy calls the "worst song" he's ever written, but it quickly and perhaps mercifully morphs into "O Valencia!" The set ends with their crowd-pleasing "The Mariner's Revenge Song" and "I Was Meant for the Stage." For some reason, the theme—the performer's need to perform—of this closer feels like a commentary of sorts on an anthem like Jackson Browne's "The Load Out/Stay." The cacophony with which it ends may be meant to suggest something about the nature of that commentary.
There are those who find The Decemberists pretentious, and their lyrics overblown. There are those who find them overly ambitious, and those who find them not ambitious enough. There are those who feel they have yet to have found themselves a consistent aesthetic. But if this live collection of much of the best of the band's work demonstrates anything, it is that Meloy, Jenny Conlee, Chris Funk, Nate Query, and John Moen, with some additional help from Sara Watkins, are playing some truly fine music, songs that make you think, hooks that make you sing, and songs that can make you scream like you're being swallowed by a whale.