Destroyer / Camp Il Motore, Montreal QC, February 7
Published Feb 08, 2014Camp, the new collaboration between Cameron MacLean and former TOPS bassist Thom Gillies, opened the night with a set composed of songs indebted to the glitz and glam of the '80s. Joined by a drummer and keyboardist, the group's funk pop was driven by clean-toned guitars and just the right amount of synth, weaving various musical lines to keep things interesting. Gillies and MacLean's vocal harmonies oozed an infectious brand of schmaltz, one that will hopefully be replicated on their forthcoming debut LP.
Even disregarding his membership with the New Pornographers and Swan Lake, Bejar's own Destroyer project is unpredictably diverse; with albums ranging from MIDI-based instrumentation on 2004's Your Blues to 2011's jazz-accented Kaputt, Bejar's distinctive voice and rapid delivery of verbose, reference-filled lyrics provide the only consistent element.
To hear songs spanning two decades of songwriting and stylistic tinkering distilled to its barest form is a jarring contrast to Bejar's studio albums, especially as they've progressively increased in complexity over the years. Despite not being able to rely on other instruments, Bejar's hushed, lilting voice and simple chord progressions highlighted just how important his lyrics and singing are to his music, being able to carry him through a set to separate him from all the other guitar-armed troubadours out there. The 18-song setlist spanned Destroyer's entire catalog, including "Streets of Fire" from the project's 1996 debut We'll Build Them a Golden Bridge and a glimpse into Destroyer's future with a new, as-yet untitled song.
The rearranged renditions of Destroyer's previous songs also brought a new kind of poignant melancholy that was often hidden by upbeat instrumentation: "Your Blood" from 2006's Rubies was transformed from a pleasant romp to a more sombre, thoughtful piece, with a drastically slowed tempo. "Self Portrait With Thing (Tonight Is Not Your Night)" isn't particularly upbeat to begin with, but Bejar's scaled-back rendition provided a strong sense of reassurance without needing to provide the triumphant instrumental swell included on the version from 2002's This Night. Bejar's personality is exuded pretty much every time the man opens his mouth: his stage banter, while sparse, never failed to get a laugh, and provided a nice refresher after the dense, borderline-morose lyrical content of the songs.
The largest issue with the solo acoustic performance is that the individuality and experimentation that Bejar is known to embrace with open arms is only found in his songwriting, and any quirk from the arrangements has been lost to the concert's minimalist concept; part of Destroyer's charm is the musical whimsy found in Bejar's creative arrangements.
Ending with a pleasant two-song encore of "What Road" from Your Blues and "Virgin with a Memory" from 2001's Streethawk: A Seduction, Bejar proved that he didn't need to finish with a rousing, triumphant stomp. His sparse yet engaging set confirmed that, despite the increasingly complicated arrangements on the later Destroyer records, the project can still function as it began: with Bejar and a guitar, simply strumming and singing his dense, intricate lyrics.