Orpheum Theatre, 10/13
By John Curry
In every generation of pop music, someone comes along with a fabulous persona to wrap generously around their art. Not since Ziggy has there been anyone as wonderfully camp and exploitive as Devendra Banhart. The songs he played from the new record, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, last Saturday night at the Orpheum Theater downtown spanned the last century like no one else seems to be able to do with a strait face. There was Brubeck jazz, Lovin' Spoonful-esque novelities, bellowing Jim Morrison chants, Brazil soundtrack sound-alikes and even a pretty much verbatim version of The Beatles' “Don't Bring Me Down” with Hairy-Fairy lyrics posing as a new song.
But through it all, like Bowie recreating show tunes with a fuzzy Les Paul and a Mime Makeup Kit, Devendra puts his own very likable spin on it all.
Opening with the nylon string sit down strumming, I thought I was in for a real folk-fest but half way through, our hero invited the whole place up on stage to share in the fun. This sent the bouncer crew into a liability meltdown, but served to get the whole place up and dancing to the Chicken Walk (that's what Dev called it anyway) because no one really returned to their seats after getting kicked off the stage.
Everyone was dancing to the “I Want Candy”-ness of it all and who can resist the South American pop grove of Samba Vexillographica off the new record (which I had not bought yet).
Like most people, I usually enjoy concerts more if I've heard the latest record and get familiar with the tunes, But with Devendra's music, it didn't matter a bit. He seems to be able to take the most joyous and hooky bits of a million different songs you've heard a million times and grow a new beard for them.