Destroyer and Sandro Perri Crescent Ballroom Thursday, May 7
Speaking with Dan Bejar of Canadian indie rock band (or smooth jazz or '80s pop or Bowie-worshiping-street-poet rock -- the band was all of these at various points in the evening) Destroyer, he told me the initial plan for this delayed-but-welcome leg of the Kaputt tour was to tour only jazz festivals.
See our full Destroyer slideshow. But the jazzbos weren't having it. Anyone's guess why a band doing more to make sexy sax and flute cool than just about anyone this side of Bon Iver would get rejected by the festivals, but it worked out for the best. Taking the stage at Crescent Ballroom armed with a supply of beer, a white Ralph Lauren button-down, and a look of detached intensity, Bejar let the seven-piece band do most of the heavy lifting, offering up his stream of consciousness rants, rife with nods to pop culture and political asides, in power, enigmatic bursts.
Opener Sandro Perri, whose 2011 album Impossible Shapes found critics and fans comparing him to the likes of Boz Scaggs and Arthur Russell, was excellent. Backed by a stellar drummer, a keyboardist, and a dude who switched between samples, keys, and bass guitar, Perri's music felt groovy while rarely falling into a specified groove. It twisted and bucked, but Perri's soulful lyrics and quiet delivery assured that the songs never felt like complicated math equations. When Destroyer's saxophone/flautist hopped on stage, things got even more intriguing, as he layered sounds over the songs while quickly grabbing looks at pages of sheet music scattered on the ground.
Perri's guitar buzzed and rattled -- though he later apologized for the technical difficulties (probably a dying battery in this pedal chain), I liked disintegrating quality of the chords and leads, the punch of the attack followed by a soft electronic decay. I thought it was on purpose.
Bejar and band stuck pretty close to Kaputt during the setlist, but branched out with opener "The Music Lovers," from 2004's Your Blues. That record found Bejar tinkering with synths and mostly alone, so it made for a powerful contrast as the band added might and heft to the compositions.
Bejar, for the most part, was content to kneel at the foot of the stage and drink as the band replicated passages of his songs. Which isn't to say he wasn't engaged -- somewhere along the line, Destroyer morphed into a fully-formed rock 'n' roll outfit. Bejar was the guy at the center, but the swirls of electric guitar, processed flute, trumpet, and saxophone, thumping bass, and electronically augmented drums took the core elements of songs like "Chinatown," "Savage Night at the Opera," and Rubies' "European Oils" (a favorite of mine) and pushed them outward to a sonic space where they showed off the same kind of a reach as Bejar's lyrics.
Not offering much more than a couple words of thanks the dancing, excited crowd, Bejar's magnetism was ultra-apparent on the evening's closing song, the epic "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker." Opening with a few minutes of harsh noise, it pushed the limits of a few crowd members before segueing into a sea of ambient tones and lilting flute before breaking into crisp New Order-style beats. "Enter through the exit, and exit through the entrance when you can," Bejar sang, the sort of cryptic and interesting couplet he's made his name with.
The band marched off, but left a looping screech playing, indicating they would at least return to shut it off. They did, performing one more tune, another Kaputt classic (they kind of all feel that way), "Blue Eyes." "I write poetry for myself, I wrote poetry for myself," Bejar crooned, and it felt appropriate. He may do it for himself, but with this tight performing ensemble, you get the sense he's doing it for us a little too.
Setlist: "The Music Lovers" "Savage Night at the Opera" "European Oils" "Downtown" "English Music" "Kaputt" "Looter's Follies" "Chinatown" "Rubies" "Libby's First Sunrise" "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker"
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Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Destroyer and Sandro Perri at Crescent Ballroom The Crowd: A lot of dancing, and a couple of older dudes who looked like they'd been "chasing cocaine through the back rooms of the world all night." Most Unusual Dance Move of the Evening: Air-bowing. Yeah, drawing back an invisible string and firing off an invisible arrow at the dude playing saxophone. Overheard: "Play 'Painter in Your Pocket!'" I'm with you, dude. I'm Sick of Irony: Look, talking about being sick of irony is almost as hipster as liking things ironically; but I'm serious -- saxophones and flutes aren't inherently funny, and I could be wrong here, but I don't think anyone had to check themselves before simply enjoying the sounds. Record I Felt Like Listening to On the Drive Home: Low, by David Bowie