Dan Bejar of Destroyer is a bit of an asshole. He’s secretive about it – his voice swoons, his band is gratifyingly indulgent in the silky jazz he cues up for them, but there’s a slight dash of indolence hovering around his persona.
Then again, we are talking about a traditionally reclusive performer with a knotty discography who just now, after 15 years of ambiguity, released the most crowd-pleasing album of his career; you might say the transition from shaded poet to undisputed bandleader is a little rough. And to be fair, the music he was performing was polished to a mirror shine; those velvet runs of lush, rosy yacht-pop were absolutely gorgeous and easily transcended the distance Bejar put between himself and his fans.
But honestly I think I’d prefer listless, antagonistic Dan Bejar to a faux-peppy one, his collected demeanor gave no ground to his cooing, sold-out audience at the decently sized Mohawk, and his solitary “thank you” of the night came halfway through the set while staring at his shoes.
The disaffected playboy disposition of Kaputt seems to be filling his thespian needs. Singing in spots with his back to the crowd, sometimes studiously focused on a lethargically shook tambourine. He approached the gig like he was bored of it all, and the massive tour bus parked in front of the club seemed to confirm that. Occasionally during the longer songs, he’d pick up a binder, and recite his un-memorized lyrics as if he wasn’t expecting any judgment. His crowd didn’t seem to mind – made up of the biggest Destroyer fans Austin had to offer, they were mainly just smitten at seeing their hero in the flesh. When I asked the girl next to me if he seemed a little torpid, she hushed me with a “that’s just the way he is, okay!”I shall not question the master.
Normally these are not the ingredients for a good show, but, like I said, Bejar has earned his aloofness. He has built a character of arms-length resistance throughout his personal career, as well as his cloistered contributions to The New Pornographer’s catalog. If he suddenly evolved into an Elton John in his critical resurgence I, think the show would’ve seemed a little off-balance. The Destroyer live experience thrives on the unsettling feeling that you’re wasting Dan’s time, that you’re just a means to a paycheck, a number, a record owner miles below his indifferent genius.
But then again, he played all his songs, complete with an unabridged version of the 11-minute disco ballad “Bay of Pigs.” My guess is that he really does love us; he just doesn’t like showing it – that would break character, after all. Still, there’s a chance I’m giving his credence a little too much credit, if Bejar lived at an equal level with the people who came to see him, it might’ve just been a nice surprise, not a world-changing moment.