Show Review: Destroyer @ The Mohawk

Surprisingly, I wasn’t quite exhausted from SXSW, and nor was the near sell-out crowd over at the Mohawk this last Friday night.  We all gathered to watch Destroyer, better known as Dan Bejar, not to mention the excellent War on Drugs.  As a nice breeze floated in to the venue, you had to know it was going to be a special night.

War on Drugs hails from Philadelphia, and we absolutely adored their most recent album Future Weather.  The reason I mention Philadelphia is that like musicians Bruce Springsteen or Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, more recently, the band has a very working class mentality, which isn’t a bad thing.  While the record has some atmospheric tinting to it, the live set was all business.  Frontman Adam G. seemed excited to play in front of an enthusiastic crowd, and renditions of tracks such as “Baby Missiles” and “Comin’ Through” were executed to perfection.  Going through their set full of smiles, the band did everything in their power to win over the Austin audience, and for the most part, I’d say they were quite successful.

Once the band had finished, people stopped milling about, instead pushing closer to the stage to catch a glimpse of Dan Bejar.  Interestingly, once he took to the stage, I’m not quite so sure that he was so interested in seeing them.  Opening with “Chinatown,” Dan already had that odd quiet stare off into the distance, as if he was caught up in the opus that he created, which of course meant he wasn’t out to connect personally with the audience.  This is all well and good, as the other seven members on stage, the most I’ve seen with Destroyer, sounded absolutely amazing.

As they moved into more recent recordings, such as “Blue Eyes,” you couldn’t help but be wrapped up in the ornate quality of the group behind Dan.  It’s rare that a saxophone, trumpet and various other instruments can work with such precision, but every awkward bleep or blip from the horns seemed intentional, accenting every little vocal and note.  You can take one listen to Kaputt, and you know that it’s going to take some skill to pull this off in the live setting, and I couldn’t have been more impressed with the band as a whole.  Part of me though, was a bit disappointed in Dan.

Okay, so I know the guy has several bands, he’s been writing songs for years, but on two different occasions during the set, he had to use lyric sheets in order to perform the songs.  I’m not sure if this was lack of preparedness, or just a need to make sure that everything came off precisely as Bejar envisions, as I can see that in his quirky personality. I suppose a lack of professionalism in that manner is made up for by the attention to details, however, in the rest of the songs.  By the time he reached the set’s closing number, “Song for America,” I had forgiven Dan his odd behavior, as the music he’s arranged is other-worldly at times, leaving him as one of the most creative voices around.

Here’s the set in order from first to last: Chinatown, Blue Eyes, Its Gonna Take an Airplane, Downtown, Savage Night at the Opera, Kaputt, 3000 Flowers, Painter in Your Pocket, Suicide Demo for Kara Walker, Song for America, Encore.

Photos provided by Brian Gray.  More photos can be seen on his fancy website.

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