So when Dan Bejar announced a solo Destroyer show -- with Blackout Beach opening as well -- I was conflicted. But I decided to give the Rickshaw another chance, figuring it would be hard to mess up the sound for a single guy with an acoustic guitar. And you know what? It sounded pretty good.
It had been a while since I've seen Carey Mercer in any incarnation, so I was very glad that the Frog Eyes frontman (and Bejar's bandmate in Swan Lake) was opening under his solo alter-ego Blackout Beach. He took the stage with an acoustic guitar, and a bag of tricks in the form of looped beats and plenty of distortion pedals. His incredibly powerful voice drove most of the songs -- a couple times he even stepped off the mic and belted out the words -- with an almost frantic intensity. Never more apparent than in "Three Men Drowned In The River" from his Skin of Evil album.
In contrast to the intensity of the songs, though, his stage banter was light and funny. Part off-the-cuff, with a dash of self-effacing humour, Mercer joked with the crowd between each song, asking things like if the beats were "too techno, or not techno enough?" (they were somewhere in the middle).
He wrapped up the set with a pair of Frog Eyes songs from his most recent album Carey's Cold Spring; "Claxxon's Lament" provided unparalleled emotion, and he wrapped up with the advice "Don't Give Up Your Dreams", his distorted guitar wailing to an ending.
The last time I saw Destroyer, it was the full band at the Vogue Theatre, with the band filling out the rich and lustrous sound of their last couple albums. But this time it was only Dan Bejar, armed with his acoustic guitar, and speaking a word he silenced the din of the crowd just by launching into his first song, "My Favourite Year". In fact, other than some recognition applause and cheers at the start of most songs, the crowd was in an awed silence the entire night, as long as Bejar was playing -- the one memorable occasion being when half the packed show shouted "the fucking maniac" at the appropriate part of "European Oils"
Bejar played a packed set, just shy of an hour and a half which spanned his illustrious career, going back to almost twenty years for the song "Streets of Fire" from We'll Build Them a Golden Bridge all the way up to "Bye Bye" from his newest Five Spanish Songs EP.
Other highlights included the gorgeous and fragile songs like "Chinatown" and "Foam Hands" as well as dramatically stripped down versions of more upbeat tunes, "Your Blood" and "Savage Night At The Opera", and also the aforementioned "European Oils", a personal favourite.
In contrast to Mercer's humour, Bejar didn't say too much between songs (as you would expect) but as the set went on he loosened up and a few times his dry sense of humour came through; joking that a few of his songs were suspiciously similar when stripped down to the acoustic, and proclaiming the last song of the night would be the best (and them promptly feigning a complete loss of self-confidence) before launching into a stunning rendition of "Don't Become The Thing You Hated".
But of course the packed theatre was not done yet, cheering for more as Dan came back out with another couple songs to cap off the night with "Virgin With a Memory" from 2001's Streethawk: A Seduction
And with that he bowed one last time, leaving the audience with one of the better shows I've seen so far this year.
My Favourite Year; Your Blood; The Chosen Few; Bye Bye; Foam Hands; Light Travels Down The Catwalk; Downtown; Helena; European Oils; Self Portrait With Thing (Tonight Is Not Your Night); Chinatown; Streets of Fire; To the Heart of the Sun on the Back of the Vulture, I'll Go; Farrar, Straus And Giroux (Sea Of Tears); Savage Night at the Opera; Don't Become The Thing You Hated.
(encore) What Road; Virgin With a Memory.