Last Thursday was undoubtedly a treat. The middle of some blisteringly warm days with temps in the 90s, the sun out and shining bright, and of course and amazing lineup playing at Thalia Hall. Dan Bejar, who’s storied music history includes The New Pornographers, Swan Lake, and so many more made his way to Pilsen’s beautiful venue. Bejar came in the form of his Destroyer pseudonym with a full band in tow and Rosali opening what would be a dizzying and wonderful show.
Rosali started off the night with some striking songs that certainly set the right tone for the evening. Rosali‘s blend of a folk base and indie rock leanings that is peppered with some psychedelic flourishes that really captured my attention from the get go. There is a mesmerizing quality to her voice, which is warm and inviting, that is only matched by her elegant guitar work. It was hard not to get lost in her complex songs that delve in to the dark recesses of love and loss while maintaining that welcoming charm.
When it came time for Destroyer, Thalia Hall had filled its floor space to the brim. Dan Bejar emerged alongside his band with a few drinks in hand, placing them at his feet. He wasted no time in speaking with the crowd or acknowledging them beyond a quick nod or glance. Instead he and the band let a pair of songs from Labyrinthitis burst out in all their smooth, synthy glory. It all of course was guided by Bejar’s undeniable unique voice that twirls around its listeners with reckless abandon.
The set focused on albums from his current sound, touching on Have We Met, Kaputt, Ken, Poison Season, and Labyrinthitis. It made for a pretty cohesive jam session with only few older albums getting representation. But given just how pristine and honed the Destroyer sound has become, it made perfect sense. Although “European Oils” hitting towards the end of the set really struck a chord with the captivated audience.
Throughout the night Bejar exuded a interesting mix of cool ease and anxiety ridden perseverance as he would occasionally get to his knees and take a sip or two of his drinks. He swayed along to his songs with a light careless and read off lyric to a few tracks before letting the pages slide off his hands. The air of coolness may have come from my reverence of the man that has written some of my favorite songs and that sense of anxiety from countless stories of Bejar’s past on stage performance. Whatever the origin, the result was a set that embodied Destroyer’s sound with amazing accuracy.
Bejar and crew returned to a huge pop, one that was met with a trio of songs that delighted the crowd. The final two tracks “Chinatown” off of Kaputt and the closer “Streethawk I” were certainly well placed gems and sent the crowd off happy. But it was “Painter in Your Pocket” that popped the crowd the loudest. The opening track of Destroyer’s Rubies is a timeless classic, a song that I imagine people identify with Bejar as synonymously as I do. It’s Destroyer at his most intoxicating, infatuated, and irate. The songs jangling and Bejar’s inimitable cadence had a piercing effect that dug in deep and underlined the evening of highlights.
All photos by Julian Ramirez