By Myles Tiessen
“Here’s a song that might have debuted in Winnipeg back in 1999 or something,” mumbled Dan Bejar of Destroyer before gently playing a solo rendition of “Destroyer’s the Temple.”
With his flaming red acoustic guitar, Bejar softly sang, “You are familiar with these terms, I trust/Don’t you mind/ Our children go unseen to us/ The popular singers, they’re mean to us/You’ll find there’s joy in being barred from the temple.”
The rest of the set followed suit as he primarily played old material to a relatively filled Park Theatre on a balmy Monday night in late September.
The Vancouver-based musician may be more popularly known for his soft-rock/goth-disco muses like the definitive Kaputt or last year’s LABYRINTHITIS. Still, he has, for a long time, been a dedicated scholar of solo tours. Seeing Destroyer material brought to life through the isolated acoustic guitar was an experience that felt considerably intimate-yet because of Bejar’s reserved aloofness-amorphous.
Detached on stage, Bejar stood surrounded by poetry and prose that floated and spun above him. He pulled them down, mixing and matching words until they strung together some syntax that sounded both spontaneous and deeply considered.
Although I couldn’t tell you what the songs and lyrics mean, and truthfully, I’m not sure Bejar could either, they are profoundly affecting. It comes down to a wholly visceral and impulsive response to lyrics and melody.
As he somersaulted through dizzying lyrics, you couldn’t help but feel he was going to run out of words in the English language. Enigmas like: “And I’m reminded of the time that I was blinded by the sun/ It was a welcome change from the sight of you hanging like a willow/ Off the arm of yet another visionary Prophetess East Van punk,” sang on “Painter In Your Pocket” from 2006’s Destroyer’s Rubies were definitely puzzling but enthralling.
His referenced laced, stream-of-conscious lyrics were clearly the set’s focus, but how he played guitar in response to those lines was equally fascinating. Semi out-of-tune, Bejar rhythmically strummed and shifted tempo to reflect the importance of one line over others but also added some variance to the set.
Just as the sloppy guitar tone became a bit much, Bejar used one of his few moments of stage banter to say, “My guitar is making a growly sound, which means it’s going to stop working any second. But it’s pretty cool. Makes it kinda edgy.”
Bejar’s veteran experience as a performer was evident, as, after every song, he gave a sizeable arching bow to the crowd and, at some moments, casually hummed or sang the melody of the backing instrumental like you would if you were in a car alone, singing along to your favourite song.
The older material–undoubtedly because of their inception on the guitar–reflected better when played solo than a lot of his new material. “Tintoretto, It’s For You” didn’t hit with the same emotional urgency as the recorded version and the empty space that would usually be filled with cracking drums and pulsating synths after he repeats the line “And ringing…” felt deflated. It seems Bejar felt similar, considering he followed that hit up with “The Music Lovers” from 2004’s Your Blues.
The convergence of these distinct songwriting styles came together during his encore performance of “Chinatown.” The rhythmic guitar held its own without the driving drum, and Bejar’s airy melodies captured the clandestine vulnerability of the track. “I can’t walk away, you can’t walk away,” echoed off the walls into the ears of the half-dancing crowd.