Over the years, Dan Bejar’s Destroyer project has taken many shapes, his sonic landscape forever evolving but recent EP Five Spanish Songs saw him make moves backwards, toward the simple relationship between guitar and voice. Tonight’s set stands as a reflection of that, his solo acoustic performance acting as a return to basics if you will. The fact he can still command a room for an hour and a half with nothing more than a guitar serves as the perfect reminder that Bejar’s primary strengths were always his songs and his voice.
Bejar sounded so effortlessly laid back amongst his softcore textures on last LP Kaputt so it’s quite arresting to be reminded of how much range his voice actually has. Songs begin as languid whispers before suddenly erupting into floods of throaty projection, turning fragmented lyricism into commanding mood pieces, turning smooth syllables into a thorny knots.
It’s this sense of drama which really emboldens his songs, even as they’re stripped down to their essentials. To be sure, it’s hard to argue that cuts like “Chinatown” don’t lose a crucial flavour without their dirty, velvet sax lines circulating through the mix like wispy smoke, but overall, the added dynamics of his live vocals more than compensate. “Don’t Become The Thing You Hated” unfurls beautifully, sudden leaps in register landing with a real gravity in comparison to their full blooded, studio counterparts.
Tonight is Destroyer’s last show for some time, and the setlist plays out like a performer putting a discography into hibernation for a while. He introduces each song with a charming bit of context about when, where or why he wrote it, reaching across the decades and excavating a raft of gems from his entire career.
While Bejar has experimented with a range of textures and styles over the decades, the solo-acoustic nature of tonight provides the set with a sense of unity it might have otherwise lacked – the skeletal man-and-guitar set up throwing the common themes of these songs into sharp relief.
At heart, we’ve always known that these two facets were at the core of Destroyer’s allure, (Bejar’s sonic restlessness acting as just a welcome, creative addendum) but tonight’s performance gloriously confirms it – standing as a wonderfully intimate, yet wholly definitive, temporary swan song for Destroyer.
Photograph taken by Eleonora Collini in 2012.