This Destroyer article was written by Brice Detruche, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Josh Hummerston. Photo by Guido Engler

As the seven members of Destroyer walk on stage, Dan Bejar follows with his trademark chill demeanour. At heart, he is a storyteller. Whether it be through critiques of the music industry or tales of love and redemption, or even plain bizarre mind-wandering thoughts, Bejar has always been about putting a story across. As such, it is no surprise that the first note played this evening comes out of his mouth: “Like you, I’ve been around the world, seen a million girls”, he says matter-of-factly as he leans on his mic stand. The fact it doubles as a reference to AC/DC’s ‘Girls Got Rhythm’ exemplifies well Dan Bejar’s sarcasm and constant balancing between sad and funny, the dignified and the unrefined. Live, ‘Bangkok’ is even more impressive than it is on the album, with the contrast between the two parts of the song standing out.

While the music borrows as much from the Springsteen and Van Morrison songbooks as it does from Young Americans-era Bowie, the live show itself is static if not non-existent. Dan Bejar mostly leans on his mic stand like he would on a cane, or crouches, his face as impenetrable as ever. It reminds me of something Bob Dylan mentioned in an interview with Rolling Stone in 2012: “The thing you have to do is to make people feel their own emotions. A performer, if he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, doesn’t feel any emotion at all. It’s a certain sort of alchemy that a performer has”, he explained. Weirdly however, Bejar is clearly inhabiting the song as he sings it, even though he shows very little emotion. Unlike most performers who sing with their eyes closed, Dan’s eyes are wide open. Like on the cover of ‘Poison Season’, he is staring into the distance, it’s a blank stare. It’s like he himself is a witness of his own words, a spectator.

Dan Bejar doesn’t play an instrument on stage apart from the odd tambourine or maracas. Instead, he focuses on his singing and his distinctive phrasing and delivery. There’s sneer and jeer in his voice, not unlike that of Dylan. The Dylanesque offering ‘Midnight Meet The Rain’ and its ‘Hurricane’ reference are proof enough.

When at the end of the show, Dan brandishes the maracas and blesses us like a priest would do, it feels like an afterthought, a joke he almost didn’t make in time.

His words may occasionally stumble or stagger, and his manner waver, but that’s all the appeal of his personality and his songs. There’s defeat and humanity in each one of them, just as much as there is surprise and hope.

Destroyer - Islington Assembly Hall, London (30th October 2015) - LIVE REVIEW. Photo by Guido Engler

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