Upon first impression, the name “Destroyer” seems like an unlikely match for Dan Bejar.
On Wednesday night he quietly took the stage at Brighton music hall, tuned his guitar for a few minutes until the applause fizzled into silence, paused for a moment, took a drink of his whiskey, paused for another moment, took a drink of his beer, and slowly eased into a quaint, charming song.
Bejar was solo that night. His only instrument was his cherry red acoustic guitar that stood out almost comically from his soft blue shirt and humble demeanor. He plodded through a couple delightful, airy songs as the audience before him nodded amicably.
And then something exciting happened.
In his the middle of his third song, his voice erupted into a howl. He tensed. The sound that emanated from the stage seemingly grew in size. Destroyer, which is often Bejar playing solo, has a strange Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde vibe. Half the time, Bejar transports us to a charming, sweet European landscape. His voice is gentle and plucky like a sweet bard that would accompany a gondola ride or sunny picnic.
But there’s another side to him.
He changes in a second, in the middle of a song to a yelping animal, who’s voice rises like a desperate plea. The pastel aura that seems to surround him fades, and he seems to burn up with an invisible, heatless fire that matches his intense, cryptic lyrics. Suddenly the name “Destroyer” makes sense. It speaks to this wildness, the explosively passionate, fierce side of him that peaks through when he allows it to.
In an instant, the song ends, and Bejar is quiet once again. He bows after every song, takes a drink of whiskey, chases it with his beer, and starts the whole thing again. We’ve seen Bejar work on a wide spectrum of projects, from The New Pornographers to Destroyer, that integrate aspects of not only indie rock, but blues, jazz and folk roots. It’s time we all accept that Bejar contains multitudes- that behind his often composed, underwhelming presence lays a beautiful mess of contradiction that he’s learned over time to turn into incredible music.