Vancouver’s Dan Bejar has released music under the name Destroyer for quite some time. 20 years, give or take. Adding to an already extensive catalogue, his new album, Ken, delivers a distinctive early-80s vibe that conjures crisp dance-floor reveries. However, live at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre, Bejar and his band made for odd first impressions.
Splendidly recreating the rich warmth of past and present records, the ensemble oozed professionalism. By contrast, the tousle-haired Bejar looked downright unkempt, lurching toward the microphone, making time for drinking respites between songs. And yet, the music came alive instantaneously. Doused in crimson stage lighting, Bejar crooned his complex, melodic ramblings with fiery gusto, complimented perfectly by trumpets, horns, and everything in between. Tinseltown Swimming In Blood was particularly stirring, dense with pulsating synths reminiscent of New Order. Bejar, looking as if he were contemplating life, sang the song vigorously, guiding its evocative imagery against some magnificent drum work. Elsewhere, silkier tracks such as Kaputt, with lyrics of “chasing girls, ok chasing cocaine, through the back rooms of the world, all night” were something to behold. Sidestepping hooks entirely, the song, best described as chic lounge lizard pop, afforded Bejar’s vocals time to linger and stew before the band’s wall of sound filled the room.
As the night concluded, Destroyer’s show proved how lush and detailed music can be. It was a reminder of how looks can be misleading, particularly within a Canadian art-rock band consisting of Bejar’s indelible singing and shape-shifting craftsmanship.