Brisbane Festival Review: Destroyer (Canada) charms with a stripped-back performance

Canadian singer/songwriter Dan Bejar stood alone on the Brisbane Festival’s Spiegeltent stage. Bejar has performed as Destroyer since 1995, crafting 12 exquisite albums of complex, genre-defying music. But, for his debut Brisbane show, he stood alone with his acoustic guitar. “A lot of these songs are translated from different contexts, usually very noisy and with seven other people,” he explained. But with this stripped down performance, Bejar’s made his songs shine just as bright.

Without synthesisers and other adornments, Bejar’s reedy voice and his words are much clearer. Opening lines captured attention, like when he yelped “Jesus is beside himself” on “Times Square”. Amongst his dense lyrics were beautifully-crafted lines that astonished audience members with their profoundness (another favourite was the opening of “Chinatown”: “You can’t believe the way the wind’s talking to the sea).

Fans gathered close to the stage, hanging onto every word Bejar said. “I don’t usually talk, but when I’m alone I have to,” he said. He spent most of his set with his eyes closed, madly barking over his strumming.  At times Bejar would speak, gifting fans with absurd introductions to his songs.  He introduced “A Light Travels Down The Catwalk” by saying: “I think I’m mildly clairvoyant because I predicted the collapse of the European Union with this song”. At first glance, those lyrics appeared to tell of a model feeling empty, but a lyric like “Strike an empty pose” could easily stand in for sanctimonious posturing of politicians.

Bejar closed with “Don’t Become The Thing You Hated”, which he introduced as “an educational song. But you can’t learn anything from songs, so it’s futile”. He repeated the title throughout the song, making it sound inspirational. He whimpered the title one final time before swinging his guitar out of the way to bow, walking away without a word.

Bejar’s exit didn’t last long; he returned to fans’ call for an encore. “I never know what to do,” he says of encores. Quickly, he decides to play “Virgin With A Memory”, which he warns he may “fuck up”. From the crowd, a fan encouragingly shouted, “Fuck it up all you want,” to which Bejar doubled-over laughing. True to his word, Bejar did mess up, but it was greeted with cheers from fans that have waited a long time to see Destroyer.


Destroyer tour dates:

27 September: Howler, Melbourne VIC (w/ Jess Ribeiro)
28 September: Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW (w/ Jess Locke)
30 September: Yours & Owls Festival, Wollongong NSW

The reviewer attended the performance at Brisbane Festival’s Spiegeltent on Sunday, 23rd September 2018.