Destroyer, live at The Jazz Café

Easy C and I have arrived absurdly early. There is no line, the sun still hangs in the sky as September rears its autumnal head over an unprecedentedly warm summer. We enter the Jazz Café to find approximately 4 other humans inside, all of whom look up upon our arrival.

“I’m going to wind up getting shockingly drunk before Destroyer’s even on-stage,” I say to Easy C, as we order two Heinekens at the bar towards the back of the venue. We survey tonight’s stage. It will be fittingly intimate – more intimate than the last time yours truly saw Destroyer live, at King’s Cross’ Scala just a year or so before. That performance was magnificent, and cemented Destroyer as a Cuzomano favourite (of recent times). It is safe to say that personal expectations were riding reasonably high for this follow-up performance.

Destroyer has come a fair way since 2011’s magnificent Kaputt, demonstrating Dan Bejar’s ability to consistently produce compelling songs on every album since, be it Poison Season‘s Times Square, or ken‘s magnificent Tinseltown Swimming in Blood, although neither albums have met Kaputt‘s fantastic heights. The live setup, however, has deviated little from the formula, with Bejar continuing to loom over the stage, beer can in hand, crouching occasionally to (from one perspective) allow the band to show of their prowess, or (from the other perspective) to exemplify his reluctant performer persona (matched occasionally by the surprising spite with which he sings some lines, as though conveying disdain for his audience). Indeed, after a brief support set from a perfectly affable, young Australian chap who didn’t quite cut the mustard, this is how tonight’s show begins, with the band sauntering on stage amid dim lights to whoops and cheers before Bejar ambles on to open the set with ken single, Sky’s Grey.

The crowd is a highly-supportive one, familiar with almost every song played over the course of tonight’s spectacle, with many a whoop and cheer let out after and during each song. It makes for an excellent atmosphere as the band’s excellent timing and performance supports a trio of fan favourites including Chinatown, sustained by Bejar’s definitive apathy – he leans against the microphone stand for support, as though the performance were arduous, once (and disappointingly) even appearing to forget the words for a moment, as the crowd waves their arms in eulogy.

There is little talk, although at one point Bejar notes the hazey, intimate atmosphere of Camden’s Jazz Café, mumbling “can’t see shit” before opening into a superb rendition of Times Square, holding his corner like he got out of bed only half an hour before he came on.

Song for America quickly follows, with the performance in full flow at this point; the band truly proving their worth as timing and improvisational flourishes are impeccable. Set closer Bay of Pigs, opens hesitantly, with Bejar struggling to find the chords before the band kick things up a gear as the set closes, the atmosphere warm and deeply appreciative.

A surprise encore yields longer-time fan favourite Rubies, supported by many a whoop and a truly excellent close that entirely justifies Destroyer‘s burgeoning success along more mainstream channels. A band that rewards not only on-record, but in-the-flesh also. A recommended sortie most certainly, should you ever happen to see that Destroyer’s in town.