Thursday, October 13, 2016

Destroyer at Club Cafe - Dan Bejar, That Is

There is something bizarrely fascinating about Dan Bejar's music that he's recorded under the name Destroyer. Sometimes his high voice and dramatic delivery make him sound like some bard who has just stumbled into some indie rock band's practice space and decided to join them. The Your Blues album put his words to some of the most synthetic of synthesizers, which really made for a challenging listen. Poison Summer, the most recent Destroyer album, includes a serious dose of strings and horns, for music that he himself is still trying to process.

This past Monday, though, it was just Mr. Bejar and his acoustic guitar onstage at Club Cafe. We had talked a few weeks earlier for an article that appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper. He mentioned then that he had a batch of new songs that he was going to mix with some of the 150 songs from the Destroyer back catalog that he could pull off in a solo set. For a little over an hour, he chose about 10-percent of that catalog, easily going from one song to the next, talking between songs in a voice so calm and gentle that it was almost too hard to hear him through the sold-out throng of people. Not that the crowd was rowdy. On the contrary, everyone was listening in silence with rapt attention.

Sometime into the set, an epiphany popped up. It doesn't really matter what chord progressions he's playing, when he singing these evocative story-song lyrics overtop of them. The fact that songs like "A Light Travels Down the Catwalk" or "Watercolours Into the Ocean" have sweet backdrops - like the latter's "Femme Fatale"-esque riff - adds to the allure of the strangely poetic nature of his words. One new song climaxed with the line "I'm working on the new Oliver Twist," which doesn't sound like it should fit comfortably into a pop song. Sure enough, Bejar makes it fit.

"Your Blood," from the 2006 album Destroyer's Rubies, got a little manic or overly dramatic in the original, but in concert it veered in the opposite direction, getting more quiet and inviting close listening. "Don't Become the Thing You Hated" left all the Your Blues trappings in the dust, and served as the rousing end to the set, with words to live by. Of course, there was an encore, this one being "Virgin With a Memory." This one too ended with a beautifully rhetorical question: "Was it a movie of the making of Fitzcarraldo/ where someone learned to love again?"

On a parting note, I have to mention the crowd, which as previously mentioned, sold out Club Cafe's 140-person capacity. Besides my co-hort Erin, I didn't recognize anyone there until after the set, when I ran into two people I knew. Where do these people come from? Are they diehard Destroyer fans who drove in from out of town? Do they live here? Do they check out local bands in local clubs? They shouldn't miss out on these opportunities.

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