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Review Mon Sep 28 2015

Destroyer: Dark Lyrics and Bright Melodies in Thalia Hall's Old Opera House

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Once Jennifer Castle stepped to the front of the stage, she strummed her hollow guitar and crowed in a country-inflected voice. The audience, sipping their Lagunita's or Oberons, filed into Thalia Hall's old and restored opera house, and at once quit talking. Castle set a calm tone for a Sunday night and brought the listeners back to a quieter time -- and she wouldn't have been out of place at Greenwich Village in the '60s.

A lilting flute and a steady electric bass accompanied Castle's folk pickings. "I don't care about money / I don't care about time / I don't care about reasons," she sang. Castle limited banter and jumped songs quickly, though not hastily. And not long after her group left stage, Destroyer's eight-man band tuned up like the beginning of an orchestra, making the opera house feel electric.

With such a large group, each instrument added texture to Destroyer's ambient wall of sound. A classical guitar, punchy drums, a trumpet, and tenor saxophone colored the songs, but Dan Bejar -- the man behind the moniker -- emphasized his singing above the ensemble.

At the same time, his performance cut out any room for nonsense, with no acknowledgment of the audience, and he cleanly executed each line. Bejar's curly black hair bounced as he lightly stepped around stage, he comes off as a melancholic poet against a very colorful and even at times cheerful instrumental backdrop. One of his guitarists gestured the "OK" sign with his fingers to the rhythm section after slaying the song "Kaputt."

Destroyer performed mostly from his latest record, Poison Season, which he released about a month ago. He also mixed up a few tunes from 2011's widely-acclaimed Kaputt, and the song "Shooting Rockets" from Trouble in Dreams.

The smooth saxophone filled a lot of space at the concert, but Destroyer doesn't play any Kenny G smooth jazz. In fact, the horns sound more like Clarence Clemons of Springsteen's E Street Band. And with a whiskey drink in hand, Bejar seems to be channeling Sinatra with his cool deliveries.

Bejar's a poet who has given up playing guitar onstage to focus on vocals. He does not so much croon so much as he tells stories. He paints pictures of Times Square, Chinatown, Bangkok while showing characters of an old world-weary man or guys chasing cocaine and other thrills. And he works within fiction.

He didn't so much crack a smile onstage, but played an encore and thanked the audience for coming out on a Sunday night. He played "Chinatown" and "Dream Lover," which roared the otherwise calm night into a sonorous chanson.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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