Monday, April 4th, 2011
Destroyer and The War On Drugs at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangDan Bejar has been Destroyer for a very long time. Since 1995, according to Wikipedia, and in the past 16 years or so he’s put out ten or more albums – depending on your precise definition of an official release – many/most to great acclaim though usually from different corners as his habit of dramatically shifting styles from one album to the next seems to alienate as many as it attracts. So it’s interesting that his least conventionally Destroyer record to date – the smooth jazz/lounge synth and horn-heavy Kaputt – should be the one that has garnered the most universal acclaim. And so it was that while past Destroyer shows would draw respectably, their Thursday night show at Lee’s Palace would be completely sold out and even had scalpers out front. Scalpers for Destroyer.
Tourmates for this outing were Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs, who despite having been around for a few years themselves were perhaps best known for being Kurt Vile’s old band. But if Vile can find an audience then there’s no reason that his old bandmates can’t as well, as there’s a fair bit in common between the two and personally, I found The War On Drugs more interesting. They operate within fairly narrow stylistic margins – there’s a lot of repetitiveness and a general aversion to chord changes – but frontman Adam Granducie’s stream-of-consciousness vocals and shimmering, psych-country guitar excursions offered plenty of musical terrain to explore within them.
The last time I saw Destroyer was at SxSW 2008, circa Trouble In Dreams, and it was a performance that did nothing to improve Bejar’s reputation as a non-fan of playing live but still managed to be a fascinating and memorable show. So with that as a benchmark, the mind boggled at what sort of impression he could make if he actually seemed to care, and given that this tour would see him fronting an epic-sized eight-piece band – his last visit in 2009 was a solo show – it was pretty safe to say that this time out, he cared.
And to answer the earlier question up front: Destroyer made an amazing impression. With horns, guitars, keys, female backing vox at his disposal, the slickness of Kaputt was roughed and sped up in an excellent manner, with the smooth horns of the recordings turning tense and unsettling at points and contributing mightily to the sheer density of sound emanating onstage. Destroyer was sounding huge and Bejar, rarely speaking but still speaking more than usual, would frequently squat down in the centre of the stage with eyes closed, drink in hand and half-smile on his face like an audience member with the best seat in the house.
Given the musical configuration, I’d have expected the show to lean almost exclusively on Kaputt but the set list reached back as far as Your Blues through Destroyer’s Rubies and Trouble, the selections all largely recast in the Kaputt aesthetic and proving that Destroyer songs are as infinitely malleable as the Destroyer identity itself. For the encore, they tackled the epic-length single and Kaputt-closer “Bay Of Pigs”, and despite having lyrics sheets on hand for reference, didn’t make it through without a couple of flubs – not that that’s any grounds for criticism, it was actually pretty endearing to see Bejar crack up, even a little. Some may take some issue with The Guardian declaring Destroyer – who as an entity is almost old enough to drive – as a “new band” but there’s a genuine sense that with Kaputt, they’ve arrived and this show proved that also goes for the live experience.
Exclaim reports that one of Destroyer’s early sort-of-but-not-really albums is being reissued on vinyl – copies were actually available for sale at the merch table – and Metro and Madison.com have interview with Dan Bejar. Panic Manual and Chart also have reviews of the show.
Photos: Destroyer, The War On Drugs @ Lee’s Palace – March 31, 2011
MP3: Destroyer – “Chinatown”
MP3: Destroyer – “Dark Leaves Form A Thread”
MP3: Destroyer – “It’s Gonna Take An Airplane”
MP3: Destroyer – “The Sublimation Hour”
MP3: Destroyer – “Trembling Peacock”
MP3: The War On Drugs – “Taking The Farm”
MP3: The War On Drugs – “Comin’ Through”
MP3: The War On Drugs – “The History Of Plastic”
Video: Destroyer – “Kaputt”
Just here a month ago, Telekinesis will be coming back to town next month as support for Portugal. The Man’s May 27 show at Lee’s Palace. They’ve also put out a spanking new video from 12 Desperate Staight Lines and are the subject of features at The Georgia Straight and The AV Club.
Having sold out Lee’s Palace this past weekend, Los Angeles’ Foster The People have already scheduled a return engagement for June 18 at the Mod Club. Their debut Torches is due out May 24. The Pitch and San Francisco Chronicle have interviews with the band.
Eels have put together an extensive Summer tour and will be at Lee’s Palace on August 1. They’re also giving away a 3-song sampler of recent works in exchange for an email address – sign up on their tour page.
New York Magazine and The AV Club pay excellent tribute to the now-defunct LCD Soundsystem, while The Feast asks Nancy Whang what it’s like to be hanging it up. You can watch the entirety of their almost four-hour farewell performance from Saturday night on YouTube. Get comfy.
Stream: Low / C’Mon