Destroyer at Cedar Cultural Center, 6/25/12
with Sandro Perri
Cedar Cultural Center
Monday, June 25, 2012
View a slideshow here.
The multifaceted Dan Bejar, who performs as Destroyer, debuted the jazzy, chamber pop tracks from one of last year's best releases, Kaputt, at the Cedar Cultural Center last April. Albums don't typically enjoy follow-up national tours, but albums as good as Kaputt are rare, and as last night's performance testified, they deserve a second go.
It's difficult to sufficiently praise the talents of the seven musicians who accompanied the enigmatic Bejar onstage. Often critiqued for a live presence that is misread as aloof and indifferent, Bejar opened Destroyer's excellent hour-long set with the melancholy "Your Blues," a tune that got the show out of the gates slowly, characterized by its ponderous refrain, "Lord knows I've been trying."
After this inauspicious start, Bejar conducted a singular, hour-long set, transitioning into the super-cool "Savage Night at the Opera." One of four Kaputt tracks played last night - others including "Chinatown," "Downtown," and "Song for America" - the live "Savage Night"was a revelation. Bejar and his companions raced through the tune, barreling forward with intensity you'd expect from the song's title. On album, "Savage Night" is breezy, with Bejar's lyrics diffusing into a soft rock, mid-tempo disco mélange. It's a precious toe-tapper on your stereo but a near-anthem live.
Photo by Erik Hess
And so it went throughout the 13-song set. Destroyer was a powerhouse, richer and fuller than expected, thanks in large part to the efforts of J.P. Carter on trumpet and Joseph Shabason's show-stealing turns on saxophone, flute and electronic wind instrument. Bejar and crew deftly worked their way through earlier material, drawing from Streethawk: A Seduction, This Night, Destroyer's Rubies, and Trouble in Dreams. The earliest tunes played last night, dating from 2001, were as fresh and vital as the current material, particularly "Rubies", "European Oils," and "Looters' Follies." The set was cohesive, tight and joyously delivered by a band that surely has few peers in the current pop landscape.
A few thoughts on Bejar's perceived aloofness in concert. I read his on stage habit of taking a knee not as boredom but as awareness. He's a frontman who knows when it's time to step back -- or kneel as it were -- and let the band soar. Shabson, Carter and the others don't simply round out Destroyer, they perfect it. Bejar's momentary retreats are not unlike the ones Bernard Sumner takes on stage with New Order. In both cases, lyrics and music are balanced, not wanting for choreography or showmanship. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Daniel Bejar is not Bryan Ferry, Jarvis Cocker or any other charming frontman you want to throw into the discussion. Haters are going to hate, and some people simply don't want to dance the night away.
Savage Night at the Opera
Song for America
Libby's First Sunrise
Self Portrait With Thing (Tonight Is Not Your Night)
ENCORE - English Music
ENCORE - Blue Eyes
Personal Bias: "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker" would have been a welcomed addition to an otherwise superb set.
The Opener: Toronto-based singer songwriter Sandro Perri provided a perfect prelude. After an unassuming trio of opening songs that evoked Andrew Bird and the Whitest Boy Alive, the opening set picked up thanks to the addition of the aforementioned Shabason on saxophone and electronic wind instrument. Cruising effortlessly through a selection of songs from last fall's very good "Impossible Places," Perri and his mates sailed on an expansive and unpredictable sea of melodies that belied their stoic stage presence.
If the band was a wine, we'd talk about its hints of dub and Afro pop, its synth-tinged notes, traces of Brian Eno and Eddie Jobson and the slightest touch of the Elayne from the Dresden, along with occasional flavors of Stephen Malkmus, cultivated from a deep terroir of 70s soft rock. If this band was a wine, I'd buy a case, get another pair of white shoes, steal a captain's hat and make for the water.
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