Dan Bejar is such an unassuming and atypical frontman, not to mention one who likes to lyrically maintain something of his mystery, that the recent development of his band Destroyer must have come as a mixed surprise to him, particularly the fact that 2011’s Kaputt gave Destroyer a previously unseen popularity, meaning the Los Angeles stop on his Poison Season tour drew a sizable crowd.

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All photos by Laura Chirinos

Not that this has done anything to bring Bejar out of his shell. On stage he remains utterly elusive, hardly making eye contact with his audience and often spending instrumental stretches crouched down at the front of the stage, drumming along on his legs and sipping a drink as if he’s actually part of the audience. It says something about the considerable charm of his songwriting that he still manages to make a connection with the crowd.

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Of course it helps to have a great touring band to bring the expansive delights of his latest album to life, and sure enough, he was just one member of a terrific eight-piece group that delivered a seriously full-blooded and surprisingly loud performance at The Regent Theater Sunday night. For every low-key moment, such as Bejar’s quiet and contemplative take on the gorgeous “Girl In A Sling,” there were two or three like the huge-sounding climax to “Forces From Above.”

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In many ways Destroyer reminds me of The National. Although their sounds are fairly dissimilar, both acts make pretty classy and tasteful music on record that takes on a new life when it is blasted out live. Both acts have also taken a steady old-school trajectory to their current fan bases, and although it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing Destroyer headlining The Hollywood Bowl, I’d argue that The Regent Theater (a wonderful little venue in its own right) was too small for some of the more joyous and upbeat material.

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This is something that became evident in the set climax of “Dream Lover,” one of the new album’s most immediate highlights and a song in which Bejar’s droll delivery delightfully came up against a powerhouse and crushing backdrop, one that left the ears ringing but the heart pumping. It would have had no problem blowing away a much larger crowd, although goodness knows how Bejar handles festival stages.

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He remains the key to the band’s success and live appeal, his voice an intimate conduit set against an accompaniment of surprisingly palatable soft rock, blues, and lots of saxophone. That sounds like a recipe to have me running for the hills, but Bejar really does offset the potential cheesiness with his offbeat poetry and sincerity.

He may not have said much to the audience, but the cries of love between songs cannot have escaped his attention, and the crowd’s passion of the know-every-single-word variety suggests that ten albums into his career, Dan Bejar might just have hit a new stride. Destroyer will be around a little longer I suspect.

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