Destroyer, Great American Music Hall, March 21, 2011: It's taken a while for me to catch Destroyer in concert, and I have no one to blame but myself. Simply, I didn't immediately warm to Dan Bejar's vinegary jolts on the New Pornographers records, but with their last several releases, his contributions rank among the highlights. The fact that Dan decided to become a more regular fixture on their tours didn't hurt either, despite his limited stage presence. The momentum finally brought me to a bona fide Destroyer gig, but still, I have no excuse for waiting all this time.
I probably know less than I should about many of the performers I see these days, but hey, that's not my job--I'm just trying to hear some good tunes and support deserving bands. Anyway, Destroyer falls into that category. Friends have sent mixes and MP3s over the years, and they're featured on my favorite Internet radio outlets, but I've never investigated further. I like to think of it as listening with an open mind, but you could call it laziness (and I wouldn't object).
As I understand it, Destroyer favored the new record at this show, though you can check the printed setlist for yourself. At one point, Dan introduced one song as being from five years ago, and you could hear the difference between the newer, smoother titles and the more jagged oldie. Someone else will have to come up with the name--I can't help you there.
In many ways, this wasn't your typical rock show. For one thing, the frontman wasn't exactly seeking the spotlight, even as one drunk young woman--situated front and center--shouted requests at him. Julie thinks she asked him to sign her tits; I thought I heard something about "sandwiches" from the same exchange. There's probably a Rorschach test in there somewhere, but phonetically, they're not that far off. Take your pick (and don't judge). For the record, he made few gestures toward her and seemed to almost tune out his peripheral vision, despite the fact that she wasn't three feet away.
That same frontman turned to lyrics sheets for a handful of songs, but I'll say it again--no judgement here. Heck, I've seen it before at the same venue. I think Dan uttered a total of two--maybe three--dozen words to the audience over the course of the evening, but it's not like we bought tickets to a talk show.
The other standout feature was the brass section: a saxophonist/flautist and a trumpet player. We happened to be situated directly in front of the trumpeter and got to see what set him apart from your typical brass player: He ran his contributions through a couple of effects pedals. Even when he wasn't working the horn itself, he produced a series of sounds and sonics that continually drew Dan's attention.
Of course, the rest of the band were no slouches either, supplying strong harmonies, great guitar riffs, and an especially grooving rhythm section. But after an evening of relatively straightforward rock, they took a sharp left. Dan, along with one guitarist, a keyboard player, and the saxophonist/Mac head, churned out what sounded like a trance track. It wasn't what I expected, but it was a hell of a closer, one I won't likely hear at another show.
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