Destroyer – Islington Assembly Hall, London, 30th October 2015

Destroyer – Islington Assembly Hall, London, 30th October 2015

destroyer_band_print_41Kicking off their set this evening with standout track amongst so many ‘Bangkok‘, from new album Poison Season, is a particularly poignant and interesting move from Destroyer. Such as the way this project of auteur Dan Bejar has been a gentle and long rise to the more mainstream attention they’ve been receiving recently, ‘Bangkok‘ begins with just piano and vocals, and winds its way into a grand fanfare-like ending.

It’s somewhat surprising perhaps, listening to the record, that the Destroyer touring band now consists of eight members, but the size of the band matches the enormity of the sound. On tracks ‘Forces From Above‘ and a rapidly accelerated version of ‘Savage Night At The Opera’ from 2011’s Kaputt, there’s a real tangible sense that the band could come apart at certain times in a brilliantly chaotic way. It’s a testament to Poison Season that it is the product of a band well versed with each other, and Destroyer recording as a full band for one of the first times.

With 11 full length albums in Destroyer’s back catalogue, Bejar focuses the setlist on the most recent record that has seen them grow their audience, however there’s still room for a few old favourites to be thrown into the mix. ‘European Oils’ from 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies invokes a particularly knowing reaction from the crowd, as well as the opening drum beats and synth line of ‘Chinatown‘ and the title track to their previous album Kaputt which so endeared Bejar to a larger audience.

Watching Bejar performing live is akin to watching some kind of performance art. His liberal use of melodies often finds him purposely slowing lines down, only just managing to fit them in afterwards. The audience’s familiarity with Destroyer can be measured by their reaction, or in this case lack of, to Bejar’s tendency to put the microphone on the stand and crouch down through long instrumental sections, which can invoke bemusement, but there are no puzzled looks going around here.

With minimal audience interaction from Bejar, the band fly through a pretty extensive set – especially when you take into account the lengths of some of the songs. Though each Destroyer record sounds very different, as a complete set nothing is incongruous, it all fits. The 80s Miami Vice style synth sounds of Kaputt mix perfectly with the Young Americans era David Bowie sounds of this latest batch of songs, with the main bridge between them being the saxophone and trumpet which are used to such mesmerisingly powerful effect that some audience members are turning their heads and locking eyes with each other in amazement.

Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on recent single ‘Dream Lover‘, which is met with perhaps the most enthusiastic reaction of the night. After a brief minute or so off stage, Destroyer return for a two song encore, including ‘Girl In A Sling‘ and the mammoth, ever impressive 10 minutes long ‘Rubies‘.

Despite once being a very niche art-rock proposition, Dan Bejar has proven that there is a substantially willing audience for his eccentric Destroyer. With every album changing styles so dramatically, yet still somehow being unable to be anything but Destroyer, there is always a reason to catch Bejar again, and the audience that so enjoyed this evening (as well as anyone that has missed out) go home happy in the knowledge that the band have already announced a 2016 London date at Koko – proving that Destroyer are a fascinating band both on record and live, and are very much in demand.


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