Destroyer / Nap Eyes Opera House, Toronto ON, March 4
Published Mar 05, 2020After more than two decades, Dan Bejar is resisting becoming a legacy artist. For Destroyer's latest gig, the Vancouver songwriter leaned heavily on new material, seamlessly blending his latest work with rare dips into his back catalogue.
In keeping with the night's forward-thinking approach, the show began with a performance from up-and-comers Nap Eyes. The East coast slacker-rock combo were joined by guest guitarist Ryley Walker, whose DMB-level chops shone through his comically cavernous reverb. The lyrics were dry and the guitar was wet as the group previewed some wry, bleary tunes from the upcoming Snapshot of a Beginner. They kept the early bird fans engaged, although it was difficult to get too hyped up from such drowsy music.
When Destroyer took the stage, they immediately highlighted cuts from the recent Have We Met, beginning with the one-two punch of "Crimson Tide" and "Kinda Dark." The show was sold out, and the Opera House was packed with diehards trying (and mostly failing) to sing along with Bejar's cryptic poetry and vocal quirks.
Bejar and his six backing musicians were never too faithful to studio versions, turning the robotic new wave pulse of "It Just Doesn't Happen" into a surging rocker and "Cover From the Sun" into a freewheeling art-punk stomp. Part of the fun of seeing Destroyer live is hearing how the live band interprets the meticulous studio arrangements, so it was a diehard's delight to hear "foolssong" done with a barroom piano à la Poison Season. With the baroque grandeur of Rubies and the echoing trumpets of Kaputt, it was a setup that drew elements from across Destroyer's diverse catalogue.
Bejar's singing has grown increasingly laid back over the years — he reportedly tracked Have We Met at his kitchen table, keeping his voice down so as not to disturb his sleeping daughter — but his live performance bore some traces of his yelp-y vocal tics of old. This added some esoteric strangeness to heavy-lidded soft rock jams like "Kaputt" and "Poor in Love," and he brought "European Oils" to a snarky crescendo with his shout of "she needs to feel at peace with her father, the fucking maniac." Throughout it all, Bejar maintained a mellow onstage demeanour, crooning with his head bowed and learning on his waist-high mic stand like a cane while taking swigs from a tall can of Stella Artois.
In the encore, Destroyer uncharacteristically went on a trip down memory lane with "Canadian Lover/Falcon's Escape," a cut from 2000's Thief. But before anyone could get too nostalgic, the band tore back into the 2010s with "Dream Lover," reminding fans that Bejar's songwriting prowess remains undiminished.
It was the perfect way to cap off a night that almost completely ignored the first half of Destroyer's career. And if you missed the classic tunes, no worries — vinyl copies of Streethawk: A Seduction were available at the merch booth.