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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

June 4, 2012 at 1:30 PM

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Concert review: Destroyer creates new sounds at Showbox

Dan Bejar, taking a knee; photo by me

JP Carter's trumpet solo on "Downtown" got the loudest applause all night at the Destroyer concert Sunday at the Showbox, ripping through the speakers, rhythmic and noisy. It consisted of spacey notes processed through cables and pedals until they were not melodic — and not at all what a trumpet normally sounds like.

The small audience clapped appreciatively: Destroyer fans like the gnarlier side of music, apparently. Then the concert went back to the smooth, rich blend of borderline-cheesy yacht rock, disco and singer-songwriter indie fare Destroyer is known for now.

The octet mainly played songs from last year's album "Kaputt" — tight, rhythmic dream pop — which marked a change from a decade-plus of singer-songwriter Dan Bejar's unedited story-songs. It made for a danceable concert with couples kissing and swaying to the beat. At the end, the audience called for an encore and got the marathon "Bay of Pigs," which went from seething synthesizer music into a cracking dance beat over 10 minutes.

Bejar has quit playing guitar and become purely a singer and writer. Not that he wasn't good before, but the change suits him. At the Showbox he stood center stage with big bushy hair and fashionable leather shoes, rapping lyrics about the apocalypse and different wines he likes, using sudden rushes of language and dramatic pauses to hammer his poetry. He held the microphone with the tips of his fingers like it was a fancy thing, and frequently knelt with eyes closed, as if overcome by exhaustion or ecstasy. He hardly ever spoke to the crowd but was a good showman.

Other musical highlights, also from "Kaputt": the catty "A Savage Night at the Opera" (sample lyric: "I heard your record; it's all right"); the chilly, driving "Chinatown"; and the title song about "chasing cocaine through the backrooms of the world." All came across better in concert than on record.

Soft rock generally translates well in clubs, where it breathes and opens up in the big speakers. But Destroyer's horns and guitars were especially emotional, pumping up Bejar's major and moody, minor-seventh chord changes, revealing lots of muscly things happening inside songs some might have written off as puffy.

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