Concert Recap: Destroyer, Old Town School of Folk Music (Chicago, IL), November 7, 2013

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“I had to tone that one down a bit,” Dan Bejar explained after finishing a stripped-down version of “Savage Night at the Opera,” a track from Destroyer’s 2011 Kaputt that on record relies on swirling synths and electric guitar. He was referring to the unique opportunity this past Thursday night (November 7) to perform an acoustic set at Lincoln Square’s Old Town School of Folk Music as part of a Destroyer solo tour. The 80s alternative vibe of Destroyer’s recent albums is being whittled down to its simplest form for a special tour that Bejar has said is the “last chance to see Destroyer live until 2015.”

Armed with a single acoustic guitar and his manic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, Bejar flowed through songs from all points of the Destroyer discography. The beautiful concert hall and “no-glow” atmosphere of the venue helped to accentuate the pensive nature of Bejar’s songwriting. Songs like “European Oils” and “Chinatown” turned from pop songs into bare bones folk ballads and early Destroyer material, like originally acoustic songs from Your Blues and This Night, were given a new life. He even played “Bye Bye,” a Sr Chinarro cover from his recently-released Spanish-language EP.

This concert basically showcased Destroyer as Dan Bejar, solo artist, as opposed to Dan Bejar, bandleader. Instead of saxophone solos and lush arrangements, Bejar’s unconventional songwriting was at the forefront at this show. Even though he usually doesn’t play guitar during full-band Destroyer shows, he was at ease here, playing full chords and intricate patterns rather than resorting to simple versions of these songs.

I can only imagine that this is how most Destroyer songs were conceived – just a poet with his guitar. Bejar showed further proof of this when he debuted a new song he wrote on the plane ride into Chicago, one he said he wrote when he “must have been worried about something.”

Bejar does occasionally come off as distressed, weary even, but this outwardly reticent nature is what made this show special. The Old Town School of Folk Music’s beautiful Maurer Hall is already a small enough venue, but seeing Bejar play these songs without any production frills made them that much more personal.

When he slowly strolled back onto stage after the main set, Bejar quipped, “I have a friend here who doesn’t buy into the charade of the encore. I tend to agree.” Regardless, he looked over his scribbled notes, took a sip of his Dos Equis, and finished with “Don’t Become the Thing You Hated,” a song that uses four simple lines and a few simple chords. Destroyer is best when he goes back to the basics.

SETLIST

My Favorite Year
Your Blood
The Chosen Few
Downtown
Bye Bye (Sr Chinarro cover)
Helena
Foam Hands
A Dangerous Woman Up to a Point
[New Untitled Song]
European Oils
The Music Lovers
Painter in Your Pocket
Chinatown
The State
To the Heart of the Sun on the Back of the Vulture, I’ll Go

ENCORE

Savage Night at the Opera
Don’t Become the Thing You Hated

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