Sunday, 21 March 2010

Devendra Banhart at The Commodore, Vancouver, 18/3/10

Call me old fashioned, but I always assumed that you payed to see a gig, in this case upwards of $30, if you liked the artist, enjoyed some of the albums they'd put out, and fancied seeing how their recordings translated to the live arena. Well, I'm gonna get on my high horse for just a sec, and am gonna proclaim that half the people in the crowd at the Devendra Banhart show the other night were nitwits - they spent so much time chatting boisterously to each other that they clearly couldn't have given two shits about who they were seeing. Why pay to see someone if you're then going to proceed to try and drown their sound out with your own brand of mind-numbing witticisms and dead-as-a-dog flirtations?

I felt a bit sorry for Devendra actually. When he walked on the stage he was greeted with decent applause, but later then when he did the solo part of the set - just his guitar, his lush voice, and his exquisite lyrics - the audience got bored and started chatting amongst themselves. Getting his hopes up, egging him on, and then dropping him with a heavy bump - you're worse than my ex... Why would you wanna play an honest, hard-working musician like that Vancouver?

I can't understand it myself, as the solo stuff was easily the best - that was the Devendra you heard in the earlier records, and the Devendra you wished to see in a wooded glade in late summer whilst you swigged away at an organic cider, and had someone plait various summer flowers into your Old-Testament-sized beard. The Commodore is not the venue for Devendra, it lacks the intimacy that his lo-fi folk thrives upon, and he would have done a lot better to have done 2 or 3 nights in a smaller venue, perhaps The Biltmore.

So, the crowd didn't appreciate the solo set. They did enjoy the main chunk of the show, where Devendra's backing band, The Grogs, gave the set depth, energy, and enough amplified sound to drown up the rude bastards at the back. People were clapping, waving lighters, cheering - all the signs that tell an artist that people are enjoying the show: just to confuse Devendra a wee bit more I presume. Paradoxically, I thought that this section was a bit run-of-the-mill, the band were tight yeah, but they didn't really offer me anything innovative, and certainly nothing worth the $30. When you go to see Devendra Banhart, you go to see him, as he's the unique the musician.

As it was, I didn't feel he was very unique on the night. I was left with very few memories of the show, and overall a sense of being cheated out of a cracking gig because the crowd didn't give the artist the respect he deserves. To all those people after the show complaining of Devendra not playing an encore - I tell you, it's your own damned fault.

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