Destroyer at the Crocodile, Seattle | 18 March 2011
My expectations for Destroyer last Friday night at the Crocodile were not high. Seeing Dan Bejar play with a small band or solo under the his Destroyer moniker was always good, but I had never been blown away. I knew I was going to hear the songs from his latest Kaputt, but I had no idea that what I would get would far exceed that very good record and as well as any expectations I had. I kind of got a feeling that something different was in store for us as the stage was a buzz as the band set up, trumpet, saxophones, guitars, basses, keyboards all being set up and sound-checkd with people dodging each other and moving around with purpose. I wasn’t sure how big Destroyer was going to be this night, but I was pretty sure it was going to bigger than I’d ever witnessed. The trumpet player had his trumpet going through two effects pedals which sometimes made it sound like a trumpet, sometimes like a guitar and sometimes like neither. The sax player was on the other side of the stage with a big old tarnished horn that mostly sounded like a sax. The band formed a half circle around Bejar. Besides the horns, there was a guitarist, bassist, a guy who switched between guitar and bass, a drummer, a percussionist and a woman playing keyboards who also provided backing vocals.
To say that Kaputt is steeped in the 80’s is stating the obvious, but there was a guy behind me pointing out to his friends that one song sounded like Dylan‘s All Along the Watchtower and another sounded like Mike and Mechanics‘ All I Need Is a Miracle. I suppose Mike & the Mechanics was 80’s but I was thinking more Prefab Sprout‘s Two Wheels Good, Blue Nile‘s Hats and the Cocteau Twins‘ song Lazy Calm from Victorialand. I guess it’s all about point of reference and the point being, Bejar writes classic pop songs and on Kaputt he’s chosen to drape them in a funky, synth, horn romantic sheen that may or may not hit your sweet spot.
For the sold out Crocodile it was a definite sweet spot. Bejar appeared on stage after everyone was situated in a pink shirt, black leather jacket and his trademark wild curly hair and beard. He grabbed the mic delicately with on hand and held the chord with the other like you might have seen Bowie or Brian Ferry do it back in the late 70’s. They started with the one-two punch of Chinatown and Blue Eyes, the first two songs on Kaputt, and my jaw just dropped. Was it really possible that they were surpassing Kaputt? The bass was a little funkier, the horns blasted a little louder and Bejar was his same cool self. For a moment I thought they might play the while record in order, but it got better with Bejar plucking jems from my second favorite Destroyer album Your Blues. That record is a close relative in style to Kaputt, and they played It’s Gonna Take an Airplane and Certain Things You Ought to Know. Both songs had an extra sparkle as the they were embellished with a full band treatment compared to the Roland/Kurtzweil treatment they received on Your Blues. Rubies was the only other album that we heard from this night. Painter In Your Pocket was an easy crowd favorite with many of us singing along. The sax and trumpet, so out of favor with pop music for so many years, were front and center this night. They wailed like guitars at the right times and tickled the eardrums at others. I remember the end of Downtown dissolving into a horn barrage that was nearly Live-Evil Miles Davis crazy. Nearly every song featured prominent horns as if Destroyer were single-handedly trying to bring them back into favor.
Bejar is not one for chit-chat, the only time he said anything other than thank you (he also bowed a couple times after songs) was when he complained about the puritan Washington state liquor law that doesn’t allow drinking on stage and requested some weed for his drummer. The audience responded by buying beers and throwing buds on stage. I don’t think Bejar or anyone else in the band took notice, they were in a zone. Clearly the crowd was on Destroyer’s side with the center of the floor full of dancing that you don’t often see at shows in Seattle, and for those our excuse was that we were too busy being seduced by the band and its effortless way of providing the 80’s white boy romantic funk so long forgotten.
The epic Bay of Pigs was saved for the encore. It started with four of the band on stage. Guitar, Flute, Keyboard and Bejar. The rest of the band sauntered out as needed like it was a video of a studio session with the band pulling in the right guy at the right time as the song kept building. Bejar sang it holding a paper with the lyrics, and as he did throughout the night when he wasn’t singing, he would crouch down and just listen to his band as if he were just as enraptured as the rest of us at how good they were.
Here’s a video from the night of the title track from Kaputt:
Here are the remaining dates for the Destroyer tour:
03.21.2011 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
03.22.2011 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
03.23.2011 Tucson, AZ – Club Congress
03.25.2011 Austin, TX – The Mohawk
03.26.2011 Dallas, TX – The Loft
03.27.2011 Little Rock, AR – Sticky Fingerz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack
03.28.2011 St. Louis, MO – The Luminary Center for the Arts
03.29.2011 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
03.30.2011 Pontiac, MI – The Pike Room at The Crofoot
03.31.2011 Toronto, ON – Lee’s Palace
04.01.2011 Montreal, QC – Le Cabaret du Mile End
04.02.2011 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Downstairs
04.03.2011 New York, NY – Webster Hall
04.04.2011 Philadelphia, PA – First Unitarian Church
04.05.2011 Washington, DC – Black Cat
04.06.2011 Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle
04.07.2011 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle
04.08.2011 Atlanta, GA – The Earl
04.09.2011 Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge
04.11.2011 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
04.12.2011 Minneapolis, MN – Cedar Cultural Centre
04.13.2011 Winnipeg, MB – West End Cultural Centre
04.15.2011 Edmonton, AB – The Starlite Room
04.16.2011 Calgary, AB – #1 Royal Canadian Legion