Show Review: Destroyer at The Great American Music Hall, 3/21/11

Posted by: on Mar 23, 2011 | 2 Comments

On Monday night, Destroyer took the stage alongside opening band The War on Drugs, for a sold-out show at The Great American Music Hall. This was my first time at GAMH and first time seeing Destroyer, so emotions and expectations were running high.

First off, a little venue information… The Great American Music Hall is breathtaking. It was constructed in 1907 as part of the reconstruction following the ‘06 quake, and was originally christened “Blanco’s” after a Barbary Coast brothel. In the years since it has hosted a wide variety of acts, including burlesque, jazz, and later, rock’n’roll. By mid-century it had been condemned by city building inspectors but was ultimately saved from demolition. It wasn’t renamed until 1972, with Maynard Ferguson as one of the first acts in the newly reborn venue. I love transportive spaces and environments, and you can really feel the history of GAMH when you walk through the door.

As for the show, Destroyer is a fantastic act to see live (even if you’re stuck behind Guy Who Subjects Everyone In His Perimeter To His Erratic Dancing). Singer Dan Bejar was backed by an amazing eight-piece band that included saxophonist and flutist Joseph Shabason, guitarist Nick Bragg, keyboard and vocalist Larissa Loyva, and trumpet player J.P. Carter. Though Bejar is undoubtedly Destroyer’s poster child and star, Shabason and Carter stole the show more than once, (reminding me of Jon Hamm’s “Sergio”), providing some downright mesmerizing performances.

One of the things that makes Kaputt so entrancing is Sibel Thrasher’s powerful backup vocals, so I was disappointed to see she wouldn’t be providing them live. Larrisa Loyva did an admirable job through songs like “Downtown” and “Blue Eyes”, but her voice was often drowned out by the rest of the band. The setlist was heavily weighted toward Kaputt, with only a few tracks from past albums thrown in, so folks pining for earlier stuff may have been let down. Bejar’s performance was energetic and passionate, coming across somewhat edgier in person. His reliance on lyric sheets may have been off-putting to some, but anyone familiar with Destroyer’s oeuvre knows those songs must be hard to memorize.

Overall an amazing show with a fantastic encore (“Bay of Pigs”). It sounds cheesy, but I really felt like I was witnessing musicians at the top of their craft, who seemed ecstatic to be performing in front of an engaged, supportive crowd.

UPDATE: Huge thanks to Pam Torno for these amazing pics from the show! Pam might have the best named blog currently online. You can see more pics from the Destroyer show on her flickr.
*The setlist:
Chinatown
Downtown
Gonna Take an Airplane
Blue Eyes
Suicide Demo for Kara Walker
Painter in Your Pocket
Song for America
Savage Night at the Opera
3000 Flowers
Encore: Bay of Pigs

*These were the songs as best I can remember them… If you were at the show and have a song or order correction, don’t hesitate to let me know.

“Downtown”: