Photograph by Eleonora Collini
Destroyer are off the leash. After finishing their last impeccable LP Kaputt nearly two years ago – and touring it ever since – they’ve reached a stage where convincing audiences worldwide of its brilliance by having their set consist almost solely of songs lifted from it is less of a concern. After the record of year plaudits here and prestigious award nominations there, few here tonight are unconvinced of its majesty. So compared to the last time we saw them, nearly a year ago just down the road at Heaven (where they played all but one song from their then-newly released LP), tonight sees them go wild.
Not that wild, obviously – Destroyer are hardly Death Grips, but they are just as gripping a live spectacle. In terms of the musicians accompanying front man Daniel Bejar to the stage, they’re a very similar set up to the live band who’ve been spreading Kaputt’s glory far and wide the past few years. But what’s changed is the set list, which now features a handful of what we presume are brand new numbers that hark back to their previous undisputed masterpiece, 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies. These songs have that ‘band playing in a room’ feeling that Kaputt strove so hard to get away from (though with huge success). It’s the sound that was so excellently captured on Rubies, but here it’s added to by a band whose musicianship shines through in a way that record seemed to hide, as if somewhat embarrassed by its own talent. Whatever form Bejar’s next album takes, from the sounds of these teasers, it’s going to be another excellent one. Boring, huh.
Those Rubies songs are also given something of a makeover thanks to the presence of the hugely reverb-laden saxophones, trumpets and flute that, in the aftermath of Kaputt, have become something of a Destroyer calling card. What’s fascinating tonight is to hear how wonderful it sounds when applied to Bejar’s less silky-smooth recordings, revealing muscles to songs like ‘European Oils’, the now distinctly Pulp-like ‘Looters’ Follies’ and a closing ten minutes of ‘Rubies’ (a proper ‘oh my god I can’t believe they played that’ moment) that they’d previously never had flexed.
Of course, a fair chunk of the evening is dedicated to Kaputt material, and rightly so – over the course of the past 18 months, it’s an album that’s graduated from being one of my favourites of recent years to one of my favourites from any year. And though a second-song airing of ‘Savage Night at the Opera’ is damaged somewhat by Village Underground’s unpreparedness for its bass-led onslaught, once the sound is sorted out, ‘Chinatown’, Suicide Demo For Kara Walker’ and an especially furious rendition of ‘Blue Eyes’ (which leaves all the woodwind players red in the face) sound just as glorious in the flesh as they do in your home. Probably. I don’t know your homes.