Destroyer's show, much like their music, was intimate and suave and mysterious and wholly exciting—another one off the bucket list.
Destroyer at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds tonight—a remarkably intimate affair! The concert space was small, the audience pushed right up against the edge of the stage. I don’t think I’ve been quite this close to a band since The Dear Hunter in Orlando years and years ago.
Technical complaints to get out of the way first: maybe it was just because we were right up at the front, but Bejar’s vocals got all lost in the noise. You could tell it was him—his throaty voice is recognisable basically anywhere—and you could hear the notes, but you couldn’t really understand what he was saying.
Bejar also wasn’t much of a showman—Colin Meloy and The Decemberists set the bar pretty high pre-pandemic—but I don’t think I expected him to be, and I didn’t hold it against him. Meloy’s got a sort of cheery theatre-kid dynamic but Bejar, like his lyrics, breeds a sense of cool mystery, an uncle with a richly sordid past. He left the microphone stand at its lowest limit and leaned on it like a cane during certain songs the way that a crooner leans on a grand piano. He finished every song by kneeling down, replacing the microphone, and closing his eyes, as if taking a moment for himself. His stage presence was electrifying even in the absence of stage banter.
The live band did a fantastic job of elevating intimate songs to wild heights—which I wasn’t expecting. A lot of Destroyer’s modern music is immaculately poised but the band brought a raw rock’n’roll energy that confounded expectation. Near the end of the show, one of the band members performed a cool experimental drone piece on the trumpet, layering notes into a wall of noise and then modulating it into waves of catastrophe. The rest of the band sat down and listened and we all got lost in the sound.
Opener Ashley Shadow delivered as well—that sort of quiet chamber pop vibe always finds a happy listener in me. Shout-out as well to Josh Wells, drummer for both bands (and producer, as it turns out!), who Pitchfork describes as bringing “delirious high drama to every thwack of the snare” and who got me headbanging w/o reservation at the drop on “Tintoretto, It’s For You”.