Image courtesy flickr user forklift

The New Pornographers put on one of the worst concerts of recent memory at the Bowery Ballroom last August. It was so unbearable that writing a review would have been like rubbing alcohol on an open wound. A.C. Newman was acting like a real prick in-between songs, talking for longer than the band played, often jealously spitting snide jokes about bands like Spoon who had their album at low-mid class retailers like Target. Neko Case was putting on her best diva impression, looking constantly annoyed, and only singing half of the time, and not very well when she did. Admittedly, the sound was having some issues early on, but they were quickly resolved and could not have been big enough to throw them off for so long. They got on the mark about 2/3 the way through, but by that point plenty of people had already left. (Side note: Vampire Weekend opened and, being a jerk, I decided to skip their set and have tea instead – haha! Apparently they were great, so perhaps I would have felt a little better had I seen them, too…) Looking to justify having spent a decent amount of pocket change on a band I only sort of wanted to see, I found the perfect excuse: Dan Bejar, the man behind 70% of the best New Pornographers songs, wasn’t there. So, having the ability to see him perform as Destroyer at the Bowery Ballroom recently felt like a sort of vindication.

The most surprising, magnificently unexpected aspect of the show was how much more each individual instrument is accented in concert. Recorded, Destroyer oozes together, which works well because it gives his albums that lush, dream-like quality that’s become a staple of his work. The concert retained the same mood, but it was also easier, somehow, to understand the style and technique of each piece, to examine the nature of each song’s parts, as well as the whole, giving a more complete blueprint of the construction of the music, where listening to an album can leave more of an awestruck, “How the hell did he do that?” impression. The best thing about this is that, even slightly demystified, Destroyer still enchants, still weaves his spell over your ear canals. Trouble in Dreams is a little less exciting than Rubies, but you never would have known this had you just heard the new material at the show. Everything was pulsating with life. Even though Bejar chose an incredibly diverse set list, it blended together seamlessly, like a musical autobiography.

Destroyer: “Rubies” (download)

On stage, Bejar retains all of the quirky personality that he exhibits so well in song. His movements perfectly echo the fluidity of his output. But even though the spotlight is surely on him, the performance was most definitely a collaboration, the five people behind him easily justifying their presence on stage.

Openers Colossal Yes unfortunately didn’t justify theirs and came off sounding like rather generic indie pop. (The stuff on their MySpace sounds a little better, though, so perhaps they’re still warming up as a live band.) Second opener Andre Ethier, however, sounded a bit like Bob Dylan, but with a deeper, more soulful voice, a bigger band and an updated sound. His energetic, boot-stomping set was alone worth the price of admission.

Andre Ethier: “The Best We Ever Had” (download)

It’s certainly possible that the New Pornographers were having an off night last August and blew the doors off Webster Hall when they returned in October. But after seeing this fantastic Destroyer show, it also seems possible that the sum is not greater than its parts.

Destroyer on MySpace
Andre Ethier on MySpace
Colossal Yes on MySpace

Click “more…” to see the Set List!

Set List:
1. Blue Flower/Blue Flame
2. Rubies
3. Dark Leaves From A Thread
4. Leopard Of Honor
5. New Ways Of Living
6. Trembling Peacock
7. Plaza Trinidad
8. From Oakland To Warsaw
9. My Favorite Year
10. Self Portrait With Thing (Tonight Is Not Your Night)

11. Foam Hands
12. Certain Things You Ought To Know
13. ? (Please help if you know!)