By Jamila Pomeroy
February 9th, 2018.
Vancouver’s own, Destroyer, casted a dreamy aura onto the city while touring their latest album “Ken”, the bands 12th studio album. With ties to bands like the New Pornographers, and nearly 23 years under their belt, they are much more than a Vancouver household name.
Ken, veers far from the indie lo-fi albums of their early days, growing into a more sophisticated and dynamic mesh of genres. While lead singer Dan Bejar’s poetic, David-Bowie-esque vocals remain; there are other, new early 80’s influences, represented through synth and drum tones. Parallel with this throwback, are the dream-like shoegaze layers, resembling atmospherically to Sonic Youth and Slowdive. Destroyer adds new layers of romantic smooth jazz through wind instruments, creating new depth.
Foreshadowing the romance and intimacy of the band, are a couple by the bar. They patiently wait, reminiscing about their first date nearly 10 years ago… a Destroyer show. This, only barely highlighting the crowds connectivity to the band. The set begins with woofing bass, leading into the first track of Ken, “Sky’s Grey”. The crowd stands still at the dimly lit stage, as the still performers lead with a slightly stripped down intro of the song. Rarely making eye contact with the crowd, Bejar spills politically suggestive lyrics effortlessly. Emurced into something strangely nostalgic and timeless. Ken, named after the working title of Sued’s “The Wild One”, stands true as a lyrical nod. Communicating feelings of longing and heartache, while leaving you warm and comforted. While the band’s lyrics have previously been compared to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Ken, brings forth cryptic poetry, on a new striking level. Bejar stands relaxed with curly hair catching blue light waves, in a rolled up button up. While not making an outright effort to connect with the audience, he appears to get lost in his own compositions and feelings: falling to his knees often with true intent and passion. The crowd sways in response while they witness his sincere connection with them.
The band’s power grows greatly through the duration of the set, as does the crowd. Singing along to new songs with similar excitement to Destroyer staples. The impact of all songs played from Ken is far greater than the studio versions, setting a precedent for what is to come.
A deep bass driven, echoing trumpet solo leads into the final portion of the set. Unexpected, striking and simply outstanding. A wind instrument reflection of something from a Les Claypool experimental bow, bass solo. The intensity rumbles through to the heart of the Commodore, resembling war soundings, marking the peak of the performance ahead. The band remains deeply connected throughout the performance, playing with poise and a power usually only witnessed with heavier bands. Drums played with great intent and bodily energy, continuously serving as a charginging force for the band, sonically, and in terms of performance.
The crowd draws together, in its varying ages. Men and women in their mid 40’s, alongside hip kids in their early 20’s. Dancing and swaying as if they were as ageless as this timeless music. A mosaic of obvious listener and genre archetypes, brought together. Destroyer and Ken a catalyst of connectivity. Bejar thanks the audience as the performance marks the end of their North American tour, but maybe it is us who should be thanking them.Commodore Ballroom, Destroyer