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Dan Bejar

LIVE REVIEW: Destroyer, Jazzhouse, 03.12.2013

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It was never going to be a stretch for Destroyer to do an acoustic solo set. Though his albums are fleshed out with a full band, Destroyer is still Dan Bejar on his own, and most of his work readily strips back to simple guitar and vocal arrangements without feeling like anything is missing.

So what’s really special about seeing Destroyer standing on a stage alone, strumming his guitar with his thumb? It’s the attention he pays to his entire catalogue, including a song from his latest EP, Five Spanish Songs, as well as early works like “Streets of Fire,” from his 1996 debut. It all bleeds together in the course of a twenty song set, but in this setting we get the impression of Bejar at his best. The room is dead silent and all of the nuances in his vocals, most notably his stage whispers, are conveyed in such a way that describing the evening as “intimate” actually feels appropriate.

But that silence feels too prominent between songs, and it’s well into the set before Bejar seems to realize he should fill in those gaps. Even then, he only makes little comments about when the songs were written and what they’re called. Bejar expresses uncertainty about how familiar the sold-out room is with the songs, comparing the evening to the idea of Donna Summer doing an acoustic folk tour. He then admits, “I never thought that before I said it, but now I’m going to think it more often,” and amid the laughter eases into “Chinatown.”

For the most part, Bejar’s interaction with the audience is limited to the half-bow he gives after each song, his curly hair tumbling down in front of him, needing to be smoothed back. It’s a small recognition that he is performing for a crowd, a not for his own amusement, which the placid look he maintains would suggest. This mild expression combined with that mass of bushy hair gives him the gentle appearance of a stuffed animal. He makes it easy to be comfortable in his presence, whether or not he acknowledges anyone else as present.

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