Devotchka played Webster Hall on January 24. Probably best known for their song in Little Miss Sunshine, â€śTil the End of Time,â€ť the band incorporates different aspects of Eastern European music, with inspirations that include folk and punk. Itâ€™s hard to avoid comparisons to the gypsy punks of Gogol Bordello, but while they share many similarities, Devotchka sound much more refined.
Clare and the Reasons, all the members dressed in red, opened the show and provided a good-natured set. Accompanied by violinists, a cellist, the songs were folk inspired and whimsical. The arrangements allowed for the band and lead singer Clare Muldaur Manchon to really shine. Her voice sounded great, despite the poor mixing in Webster Hall. The other instruments could be heard clearly, which really enhanced the little subtleties such as the gentle violin plucking.
Violins soared in and out with gentle piano accents highlighted this playful set. The band seemed really comfortable and was enjoying the atmosphere. Their set included a nice cover of â€śEverybody Wants to Rule the Worldâ€ť and a simple but coy song about Clareâ€™s lemon of a car. A very relaxing set; the band did a great job of easing everyoneâ€™s wait for Devotchka. It was hard to dislike this set as it was very earnest.
Photo: Jeanie Schroder of Devotchka
Following a short wait, Devotchka came on the stage and started off with â€śHead Honchoâ€ť from their latest album A Mad and Faithful Telling. It is a great introduction to Devotchkaâ€™s evocative sound. Nick Urata is on guitar and his vocals are filled with immediacy and passion. Tom Hagerman leads on accordion, Jeanie Schroder on bass, and Shawn King is on drums. Urata sings longingly for a lost love, slipping into Spanish for the chorus of the song.
Video: Devotchka performs “How It Ends” at Webster Hall.
Itâ€™s this great interplay that distinguishes Devotchka from other bands. Hagerman switches from accordion, to piano, to violin, and all are played to great effect. Urataâ€™s range includes an acoustic and electric guitar, plays a bouzouki, a Greek instrument similar to the mandolin, and occasionally plays around with the theremin. Schroder plays an upright bass and sousaphone. This multi-instrument approach showcases just how talented the band is, and allows for many variables in the creation of songs. Urata has an evocative voice and he sings in English, French, and Spanish. His whistling skills are also impressive. On top of this, the band is joined on stage by members of Clare and the Reasons to play violin and cello.
Despite the beautiful nature of the songs, the vocals in Webster Hall diminished the effect of Urataâ€™s voice and range. It was muted and at times barely audible, which is unfortunate since this is one of the bandâ€™s greatest strengths. A Song like â€śTransliterator,â€ť with its pained vocals and emphatic chorus is great live despite the sound flaws. â€śThe Enemy Gunsâ€ť showcased Urataâ€™s whistling skills while showcasing how the band can really push the tempo. The song contains some great electric guitar work by Urata as well. Hagerman plays the lead violin and the swelling notes accent the lyrics perfectly.
Video: Devotchka performs, joined by an acrobat.
The biggest wow factor came when an acrobat performed an aerial show while the band played on. The performer climbed up to the rafters and performed some amazing feats, including splits, and tumbling down the ribbons. It was as mesmerizing as the music that was being played. It was a beautiful display that showed off the bandâ€™s burlesque qualities.
The set ends with the beautiful and romantic â€śHow it Ends,â€ť the song is simple yet powerful. The emotion in Urataâ€™s voice overcomes every obstacle. The audience is in the grip of the soaring vocals. This song is a fitting end on a great night of passionate music and artistic playing by Devotchka.
The Last Beat of My Heart (Siouxsie and the Banshees cover)
Queen of the Surface Streets
Along the Way
The Clockwise Witness
Câ€™est Ce La
I Cried Like a Silly Little Boy
The Enemy Guns
How It Ends