Destroyer - Heaven, London 28/06/11
Photos: Tim Boddy
Destroyer, with their prolific front-man Dan Bejar, have rightly received a lot of attention over their career. But with the release of Kaput many would argue that they have surpassed themselves, producing a wonderful indie-pop record that manages to feel both substantial, and quaintly beautiful. Remarkably both for it's individuality in sound, and ability to sound somehow familiar, and comforting (without ever being boring). Critics have been won over, new fans dragged in, and it's looking to be a great year for the band. It is without surprise that the band have embarked on an acclaimed tour, and as such I was delighted to see the band play at world famous club Heaven.
In support were Amor De Dias, a folk duo formed from Alistair Mclean from The Clientelle and Lupe Núñez-Fernández from Pipas. They began playing to an intimidatingly quiet crowd, who politely let the pretty plucked guitar melodies, and sweet vocals float over them. Alistair claimed to be “fucking nervous” and asked the audience to be more rude, and talk over the music to make it an easier gig. There were no need to make such excuses, Amor De Dias played what they had perfectly, and it was lapped up happily by the crowd. It's difficult to claim complete enjoyment of the band, as while they were overwhelmingly pleasant, there wasn't really enough to them to sustain interest.
Alistair is an excellent guitarist, and both of them are competent vocalists. They were also able to produce some wonderful overlapping guitar melodies, that went slightly beyond the basic folk template. However, all of their material wasn't quite so intricate, usually relying on just one guitar melody and one vocal tune. This is a shame, because at times I found myself really rather impressed by Amor De Dias, but at the end they became a little boring. Hardly a bad performance, but far from hitting the upper echelons.
After a long, increasingly crowded wait, Destroyer arrived quickly and silently on the stage. Without any real crowd acknowledgement, they began playing 'Chinatown'. Rarely have I heard a band sound quite so good. Every instrument sounded alive, and could be heard perfectly, while every lyric Dan Bejar sang was perfectly audible. The band played most of Kapput, all of my favourite songs, such as 'Song For America' and 'Blue Eyes', got an airing. Everything the band played sounded full of life, and was expertly performed. Destroyer never hit a level below extremely competent, and this was very much to their credit. In addition to the new songs were the older tracks, that unfortunately required the use of a lyrics sheet by Bejar, but were great none the less.
Despite the aural excellence presented to the crowd by Destroyer, they were perhaps a little unexciting to watch. They are a large band, standing at 8 members, so there was always somebody to watch. However, they remained static when not playing, Dan Bejar crouched on the floor drinking when he wasn't singing, and overall the performance seems a little too professional. Simply put, most of the band didn't seem to be having fun playing, and thus weren't overwhelmingly fun to watch. Dan Bejar simply seems lazy in his singing, and it's sad because he's so very good at it, but a little engagement with the audience, or just a little dancing would go a long way. I understand this is part of the mystery, and contributes to commanding presence of the experienced frontman, but it's difficult to claim that he would less commanding if he put a little bit more effort in. Despite this Joseph Shabason put in an excellent performance on the saxophone, and genuinely appeared to be enjoying what he was playing.
Destroyer are near flawless as a live act, as they sound so very perfect and wonderly. Each song bounced around the room, somehow sounding more exuberant than they ever managed to on record (and they sound pretty good on the album). If Destroyer were able to step aside from their experienced professionalism, and put on a energetic live show they would probably be among the best live acts in the world. Till that point, they'll have to reside within the very good category.