There is something fitting about Destroyer playing in a post-industrial corner of East London. For two decades across ten albums, the band has been famous for blending folk with abstract post-industrialist arrangements. A far cry from the lo-fi beginnings of home recordings, Dan Bejar’s band has grown in both size and musicality since the 90s.
The current iteration is a mighty ensemble that not only delivers the lush 1980s sound from ‘Kaputt’ and ‘Poison Season’ with gusto, but also breathes new life into songs from Destroyer’s transcendent back catalog.
The lo-fi origins and influences that encapsulated early Destroyer are not completely absent from the evening. Support act Ryley Walker gives a powerful solo performance, no band was necessary; Walker was a captivating force requiring nothing more than a guitar and some charming banter. The setlist leaned heavily on his latest album, Primrose Green, which is an ode of inspiration to the 1970s folk movement inhabited by Nick Drake and Burt Jansch. Walker’s voice floats and hovers throughout, whilst his skills as a gifted guitarist cannot be ignored, particularly on the instrumental cuts.
Kicking off with Poison Season cut ‘Bangkok’; Bejar is an elusive, effortless but captivating presence from start to finish. For large parts of the show, he kneels down to take a sip from his drink, but it’s impossible to keep your eyes off him. Every time he reaches for the microphone in front of the bombastic wall of sound, Bejar croons and embodies every word that he sings. The tight, yet exuberant musicianship is a common thread throughout the show, with Bejar keeping a watchful, yet detached eye on the assembled talent.
The loudest cheers of the night are reserved for tracks from ‘Kaputt,’ the record that brought them unexpected success. ‘Chinatown’ comes first, the subtleties and broad expanse of musical detail from the band are fully on show, from the underlying saxophone to the subtle harmonies from the band.
Much of the set was drawn from ‘Poison Season,’ ‘Times Square’ sounds grandiose, ‘Dream Lover’ is an assault on the senses in the best possible way, but the live highlight from the newest record is ‘Midnight Meet the Rain’ sounding like the theme from a 1970’s US cop show complete with slap bass, it feels like a band hitting its stride.
Older material is in short supply, but cuts from ‘Rubies,’ ‘European Oils’ and ‘Painter in your Pocket’ appease the Destroyer fans from the pre-‘Kaputt’ days.
Destroyer has become a formidable live and studio force. It will be interesting where Bejar takes his Destroyer project next. Nobody knows, apart from the elusive Bejar but whatever it is, it definitely won’t be boring.