DeVotchKa – the TLA, Philadelphia Pa.

My first live experience with DeVotchKa occurred 3 or 4 years ago when I saw them play a free show in New York City at one of series of several concerts put on at the South Street Seaport. A fairly small stage, set up in between the mall and the docked ships, was overpowered by the size and sound of the Denver-based DeVotchKa. Philadelphia’s Theatre of Living Arts, where I was lucky enough to catch the band this past weekend, was much better suited to the band’s wide array of instruments and dynamic sound.

The number of chairs, microphones, monitors and instruments that littered the stage made seem almost impossible that the four members of DeVotchKa, along with upwards of six members from the opening bands who would join DeVotchKa on stage, would be able to all fit up there, let alone move around and play their set. The TLA was packed and by the time Basia Bulat finished her beautiful set, the crowd pushed forward to be nearer their music idols. Bulat’s set was a perfect opening and had the crowd in high spirits, greatly anticipating what was to come.

The audience cheered as DeVotchKa front man Nick Urata (guitar, theremin, bouzouki) took the stage and launched into “Head Honcho” from 2002’s Supermelodrama. They kicked it into high gear with “Basso Profundo” off the current A Mad and Faithful Telling before being joined by members of Basia Bulat’s band on stage, adding cello, violins and the occasional trumpet to the set adding a richness and beauty to DeVotchKa’s amalgamation of Eastern European sound.

Following the energetic performance of DeVotchKa’s most recent single “Transliterator,” a quick lull in sound prompted an audience member to yell, “THAT WAS GREAT!” The comment received approving laughter from the audience encouraging a female fan to shout, “DO IT AGAIN!” Her demand was met with awkward silence until another male in the crowd broke in with, “KANYE SUCKS!” Surprised by the words, Urata stopped dead in his tracks, contemplating the diss with a smirk on his face before saying, “That’s an odd thing to say at a DeVotchKa show.” He paused a moment before following with, “We got nothing against Kanye.” The audience roared with laughter and DeVotchKa began to play as if nothing had happened.

Two of my favorite DeVotchKa songs, “The Clockwise Witness” and “Somethin’ Stupid,” the latter popularized by Frank Sinatra, were played in succession near the end of the set before Urata picked up a bottle of red wine, pulling the cork out with his teeth. He raised the bottle towards the audience and thanked Basia Bulat and Fancy Trash for playing that night before taking a swig from the bottle.

DeVotchKa played each song gorgeously with an intensity and energy that is unparalleled, especially considering its orchestral section was seated for the majority of the set. Jeanie Schroder flitted seamlessly between her double bass and sousaphone while drummer Shawn King tackled the trumpet and accordion with ease. As the set wound down, the audience never once stopped making noise to encouraging the band’s return. The audience was confused to see a guitar tech release two large red curtains into the middle of the stage.

After Urata and company returned, a slight brunette in a sparkling white bathing suit and fishnet thigh highs walked out and took her place in front of the two curtains. She began waving the fabric around as the band played “C’est Ce La” before climbing up the red curtains and performing a wonderful display of acrobatics. Even after countless show, Urata was still enchanted by the antics because his eyes rarely left the brunette beauty in the air.

DeVotchKa performance was nothing short of inspired. I can’t recall of more fantastic show I’ve seen or a better display of musicianship and emotional intensity in a performance. DeVotchKa plays tonight in St. Louis and ends their tour tomorrow in Omaha. If you can make it to one of these shows, don’t hesitate to attend. You’re in for something truly beautiful and amazing.

more photos @ flickr

Set List:*
01. Head Honcho
02. Holland
03. Basso Profundo
04. We’re Leaving
05. Queen of the Surface Streets
06. Luna
07. How It Ends
08. Along The Way
09. Transliterator
10. Undone
11. I Cried Like A Silly Boy
12. The Clockwise Witness
13. Somethin’ Stupid
14. The Oblivion
15. Ranchero

Encore:
01. C’est Ce La
02. Mexican
03. You Love Me

Tour Dates:
May 23th – St. Louis, MO
The Pageant
May 24th – Omaha, NE
Slowdown


DeVotchKa: website | myspace | A Mad and Faithful Telling review
Anti Records: website

*what the paper setlist said — some titles may not be 100% accurate

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4 Responses

  1. […] Latin America, Eastern Europe and more while singing in a variety of languages, reminding me of DeVotchKa on speed. Chicha Libre’s energy and stage presence was infectious as they got the crowd […]

  2. […] Main Stage *10:30 PM :: DeVotchKa 8:45 PM :: Silversun Pickups 7:15 PM :: Vampire Weekend 5:45 PM :: The Fratellis *4:30 PM :: Cut […]

  3. […] making waves with their beautifully melodic shoegaze evident by opening for national acts such as DeVotchKa back in May of this […]

  4. […] to catch him, was Basia Bulat. I first learned of the Canadian when I caught the end of her set opening for DeVotchKa back in May. That night, I bought her February 2008 release Oh, My Darling and have been […]

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