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Concert Review: Destroyer

Concert Review: Destroyer

Bejar turned in a dream setlist for fans, exploring not only his best and newest, but other bright corners of his discography.

Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
02/21/2020

Now that the door has closed on the last decade, it is safe to say that Dan Bejar created one of the best albums of the 2010s with Kaputt (2011). Recorded as Destroyer, the moniker Bejar has been using for the past 25 years, Kaputt features the same apocalyptic preoccupations that riddle the rest of the musician’s catalog but the soft-rock flourishes add a layer of emotional humanity that sometimes eludes the Canadian songwriter’s other work. It’s true that Bejar’s shambolic presence is no different on Kaputt but the lush instrumentation and backing vocals keeps his darker tendencies at bay.

The fact that Bejar leaned heavily on the record on the opening night of this latest tour, in support of his masterful new album, Have We Met, demonstrates the staying power of Kaputt. Eleven out of the 17 songs on the setlist came from these two records alone. Playing for nearly 90 minutes in front of a sold-out crowd, Bejar turned in a dream setlist for fans, exploring not only his best and newest, but other bright corners of his discography.

If you’ve never seen Bejar perform live, you can likely predict that he isn’t the most animated of frontmen. He keeps his mike stand at ankle level, pacing the stage with one hand in his pocket, the other gripping the microphone as he intones his complicated lyrics. During instrumental breaks, he kneels and drinks from multiple plastic cups of beer. Curly hair standing out in all directions, dressed in can’t-be-fucked rumpled clothes, Bejar is the incarnation of an artist totally consumed with his work. And that is one of the reasons his live show works so damned well.

Beginning with new song “Crimson Tide,” Bejar didn’t seem to have any tour-opening jitters. The five-piece band backing him played with energetic enthusiasm. When “Kaputt” debuted five songs in, the crowd responded with keen applause. Not everyone could contain their excitement, however. For a good portion of the show, one woman near the front kept shouting out her appreciation for Bejar’s butt, calling him a “sexy motherfucker.” Finally, the singer acknowledged her, saying something about how she could not touch his butt. Beyond that, Bejar said very little to the crowd.

When not playing new material, Bejar sang some of his best songs from deep in his catalog, including “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood,” “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker” and the first-set closing “European Oils.” Even at the point, the show felt like it had drawn to a satisfying close. However, Bejar returned to begin the encore with “Canadian Lover/Falcon’s Escape.” Rather than simply say good night, Bejar then closed the show with an epic version of “Bay of Pigs (Detail),” stretching the song past the 10-minute mark. When the music came to a finish, Bejar gave us a sloppy bow, waved and then vanished into the wings.

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