LIVE REVIEW: DeVotchKa @ Rough Trade

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Four-piece ensemble DeVotchKa returned to a packed house to premiere a handful of new songs at their album release show at Rough Trade. I found myself surrounded by fans of all ages in the dimly lit venue, though not too dark to notice a few people around me clad in the band’s tees. Chatter of the new record was alive as we anticipated DeVotchKa, who took the stage twenty minutes late.

“We are gathered here today to celebrate the release of our new album,” preaches lead singer Nick Urata, met with cheers from his congregation. “It was a long and difficult birth, but we’ve arrived.”

DeVotchKa are perhaps best known for their work in film scoring, most notably the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine. Seven years since their last studio release is a long and difficult birth indeed, but new record The Night Falls Forever does not disappoint, at least not live.

Tom Hagerman on violin.

The band kept to a high energy setlist. Setting off a string of new tracks was “Straight Shot,” the lead single from the new record. Charmingly cozy while still anthemic, I had fallen in love with the lyric video for this track prior to the show but it doesn’t compare to hearing it live. Urata’s vocals carry over an animated, optimistic beat that had a couple salsa dancing right next to me in the limited space there was, others even taking a step back to give them more room. It’s a small sentiment that characterizes this room of DeVotchKa fans: cheerful, untroubled, and ready to welcome you with open arms.

It’s fun to hear a new record live prior to its release, given that I wasn’t familiar with any new singles other than “Straight Shot.” A track called “Break Up Song” slowed things down, but not at the loss of their momentum. Another stand out is “Empty Vessels” an uplifting anthem that exhibits what DeVotchKa do best.

Nick Urata and Jeanie Schroder.

During his opening set, solo singer-songwriter IRO stated, “There are so many instruments on this stage right now, I feel lonely.” There was no doubt that DeVotchKa would make use of them all, but watching them in action was really something else. “Let’s bring out another horn!” shouted Urata, before welcoming trumpeter Kenny Warren, who has also performed with the likes of Spoon and The Walkmen, on stage.

Jazz saxophonist and flautist Jessica Lurie also joined the band for a handful of songs. Jeanie Schroder had blue lights drawing eyes to her sousaphone, but portrayed her skills on upright and electric bass, as well as the flute (“How many shows do you get to see two flautists?” asks Urata, and I realize this is probably the only time I’ll ever experience that.) Tom Hagerman exercised his talents on accordion, violin, and piano. Urata, too, swapped instruments during the set, from guitar to theremin, even bringing out a bouzouki for the latter half. None of this outshone Shawn King’s resonant polka-like percussion. They chose to play with isolation of sound on both sides of the room, making the audience feel enveloped by sound.

Older tracks like “100 Other Lovers” still had the same life years later. After that song, I overheard the guy behind me tell his friends, “You know what? Holy shit! I knew this song, a couple of songs, whatever, but holy shit, they’re really fucking good.”

Of course, the night was not complete without an encore: a solemn, yet rhapsodic rendition of their famed track “How It Ends.” Most of the crowd didn’t miss a single word, and seeing the immaculate joy on the bands’ faces show that they’re happier than ever to be back doing what they love.

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