Destroyer takes on Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom

Destroyer with Mega Bog at the Commodore Ballroom, 2/9/18

Vancouver band Destroyer played the Commodore Ballroom on Friday night (Feb. 9), the stage dominated by Fender guitars, a bass and amplifiers. Destroyer’s gear gave the impression of being a collection of favourite toys. It was clear from the setting that the performers enjoyed having a close relationship with their audience and their instruments. After 23 years of performing, that intimacy is definitely felt.

Mega Bog had the honours of being the opening act. On their first song there where about 30 people standing next to the stage. Their music was playful and timid at the same time, with jazz notes and a twist of surf rock. Joseph Shabason and his sax joined the band for a song and Erin Birgy´s voice was soft and nearly inaudible, save for when the songs peaked and she skyrocket to a high powerful pitch. But this only lasted a few seconds. Mega Bog showed a strong resemblance to the atmosphere in some ballads by The Cranberries. A bass guitar player in a colourful shirt won the prize for having the most fun that night. By the end of their set list, The Commodore was packed. It was time for Vancouver to welcome back its boys.

Just after 10 p.m., Destroyer stepped in. The band members took their places on stage, and with the lights on, the headlining setup resembled a music scene from the 1960’s. Frontman Dan Bejar took centre stage. Trumpet, sax, two electric guitars, keyboard, drums, bass, and vocals blended together, but the sound quality wasn’t up to par. The Commodore seemed to have sacrificed sonic balance in favour of more space for fans. But that space was certainly used – the home boys had been gone for a while. Fans, friends, and family were happy to see them.

With “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood,” Bejar was in full character. There was some of Russell Brand in his self-indulgent ways. He would lose balance and quickly recover from it, only to lose it all over again. Picture Captain Jack Sparrow. To a pristine pair of ears, Bejar´s voice sounded like Midnight Oil with a Pet Shop Boys attitude. He would constantly kneel in correct proportion to his mic stand, which was used more as a cane. Meanwhile, the drummer was the sole keeper of the band’s energy.

People warmed up and heads started moving side to side, but there was no dancing. Rather, only a gentle internal movement to memories dating back to Destroyer’s early 1995 days. The absence of Millennials was evident, as no smartphones were raised over the crowd. Instead, more than a few concertgoers lit up joints.

“European Oils” had a long and powerful intro. Loud keyboard paths moved the air the same way Tibetan long horns do. John Collins, from The New Pornographers, was invited to the stage, playing the shaker as a devoted prankster would shake a beer can. A low-frequency introduction paved the way for “Bay of Pigs.” In the end, the band was integrated and tight. And on this overwhelmingly Pacific Northwest night, long-time fans celebrated the longevity of Destroyer.