Published Jun 30, 2012"What is jazz?" asked the MC who took the stage shortly before Destroyer's set. It was a fair enough question. After all, the Dan Bejar-fronted project's music is hardly what most people would call jazz, making his appearance at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival a little peculiar at first blush. Then again, the jazz fest has always had a loose interpretation of its titular genre (other performers this year included acts like R&B queen Janelle Monáe and folk siblings the Avett Brothers), and Destroyer's performance at the Vogue Theatre was exploratory enough to be classified as any number of styles.
The evening began with an opening performance from Inhabitants, who set a sonically adventurous tone with their free-roaming jazz compositions and looped, echo-soaked trumpet. Occasionally the jams were a little too meandering for their own good, but the band found success by locking into some hypnotic grooves.
When the headliners arrived on stage, Bejar was flanked by most of the same musicians who have been with him since the release of Destroyer's Kaputt album last year. With eight players on stage (and backing vocalist Sibel Thrasher also shimmying out for a few tunes), the lineup spent much of the night recreating the arrangements from that most recent record and concocting lush, eclectic soundscapes.
These songs were, of course, masterfully played, although the band's non-existent stage presence meant that numbers like "Savage Night at the Opera" and "Kaputt" didn't exceed their studio counterparts. The most interesting moments in the set came when the band reinterpreted tracks from Bejar's extensive back catalogue; the hymnal, new age-tinged "Your Blues" was given a gorgeous full-band makeover, while "Libby's First Sunrise" was reinvented as a percussion-driven, horn-heavy lament.
During the encore, the band cued up the synth tones of "Bay of Pigs" before suddenly changing gears and launching into "Hey, Snow White." Bejar joked that this tune had "all the same themes as the song that was about to be played," ending the night on a rare moment of spontaneous charm.