It was the evening of April 22 and there was an undeniable buzz of excitement on the street as I arrived at the Vogue Theatre. I had purchased tickets to the Destroyer concert two years earlier, just as the world began to go into lockdown — I was so excited to finally see their show. When I walked into the theatre, I was greeted by the opening act, Rosali. They had a warm sound that invited the crowd in, a soft rock with contemplative lyrics that fit the performance to come.
After a short break, Destroyer took the stage, opening with “It’s in Your Heart Now.” As I sat in the back of the theatre, I felt a wave of comfort as the audience happily soaked in the band’s sound. “June” followed suit, the opening bars felt like the first days of summer, brimming with hope. The lush, unpredictable instrumental felt like being pulled into a dream, a labyrinth where the questions posed in the lyrics didn’t need an answer. At times, vocalist Dan Bejar would pick up a piece of paper and recite his lyrics like poetry. The performance was intimate, with band members weaving between each other’s melodies. A few songs later, “Tintoretto, It’s for You” opened with a jazz piano accompaniment that metamorphosed into an explosion of synthesisers. Every second left the listener resigned to simply feeling and listening, rather than trying to figure out what shape the sound was taking. The soothing piano chord progression, accompanied by an offbeat pulse and synth, felt like falling into a new, trance-like space.
In the second half of the show, “It Takes a Thief” shifted the tone. The beat felt like a reckless abandon that you could dance to. It made me recall an interview with Bejar I read a few years ago, where he cited Joni Mitchell’s Blue as one of his favourite albums. Listening to the instruments blend together and work to shift mood, I could feel its influence. The merging of genres created an ever-evolving sound that belonged only to itself. The drummer seemed to be in his own world, improvising rhythmically with the bass player, the keyboardist too, perfectly matching his chords and melodies with the guitarists — I was amazed to hear the lush instrumentals come to life in real time. Before the closer, there was a small break. The crowd quieted down in silent anticipation, then came a beautiful instrumental solo from the trumpet player. He unfolded a melody that melted into the opening bars of “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker.” The entire crowd was captivated and at the end, the band was called back on stage for an encore. The encore ended with Bejar’s cadence “We are slain by that stuff.” Those who were seated rose to their feet to give the band a standing ovation, and they bowed warmly in reception. Leaving the theatre I felt wrapped in the warm afterglow of seeing Destroyer in our home city. — Ashley Wood