Live: Destroyer @ Echoplex, 5.10.09

Destroyer at the Echoplex
All photos by David Greenwald

This was the third time I’ve seen Destroyer, and in a third incarnation: I first saw the band in 2005, pre-Rubies, opening for the New Pornographers; head Destroyer Dan Bejar had a beer after about every song, played with his guitar pedals and didn’t seem too happy to be there. The lineup changed with 2006’s Rawkblog Album of the Year Rubies, arguably Destroyer’s most polished, full-sounding release, an album that took advantage of its new players. This was the Destroyer I saw a year ago, playing a fiery, athletic (if weakly mixed) set at the Troubadour. But last night was the best of them all.

The show, a seats-only solo acoustic performance by Dan (who stood), was easily the most captivating concert I’ve seen all year. He played an unreal setlist that drew from Rubies (“Watercolours Into The Ocean,” “European Oils,” “Painter in Your Pocket”), 2000’s Thief (!) (“Destroyer’s The Temple”), Streethawk (“Beggars Might Ride,” “Helena”) and really, his whole formidable discog. Surprisingly, he didn’t play any songs from last year’s great Trouble In Dreams, but that was fitting: Dan just doesn’t seem troubled at all these days. There hasn’t been a formal announcement, but assuming his girlfriend and Hello, Blue Roses bandmate give birth last year as expected, the guy’s now a proud papa, and without a new album to shill for, he was particularly relaxed, even bantering — Dan, bantering! — with the crowd. His voice — a typical bone of contention for non-fans — has never sounded better, and he crooned rather than snarled. Better still was the undressing of his songs to their acoustic roots. At heart, Dan’s tunes are simple, romantic strummers not so different from, say, those of Jens Lekman; for one night, at least, it was good to see this guy in love.

[Ed. note: Aziz Ansari was there quietly rocking out. Also, yesterday, Fergie told my 7-year-old cousin in a restaurant that she’s a good dancer, but I digress.]

Previously: Live: Destroyer at the Troubadour, 5.19.08
Related: Azita at the Echoplex, 5.10.09