Sunday, May 18, 2008

Concert Review: DeVotchKa in Atlanta

Nick Urata rocking the theremin (photo courtesy of Wes Cummings)

Note: Normally I won't wait nearly a week to publish a concert review, but real life rudely intruded and delayed me considerably in writing it. My faulty memory and the leaving of my notebook in the car contributed greatly to the lack of songs mentioned in this review.

DeVotchKa (with opener Basia Bulat)
13 May 2008
Variety Playhouse
Atlanta, Georgia

Admittedly, I didn't know a lot about DeVotchKa going into this show. I was quite familiar with the Curse Your Little Heart EP and purchased their latest album A Mad and Faithful Telling just days before the show. Besides that my only exposure was having seen the movie Little Miss Sunshine and having heard How It Ends a few times at a friend's house.

I was told I could I have could a free ticket for this show by said friend if I did the driving to Atlanta, an arrangement to which I gladly obliged. All of that goes to say that I was somewhat familiar with their music going in - really digging what I'd heard and well into the process of becoming a fan.

Though their music evokes Spainish, Eastern Europen and a host of other "foreign" sounds, it is also somehow distinctly American. I can't imagine many locales around the world where it would be possible for this music to spring up. At one point singer and multi-instrumentalist Nick Urata was playing guitar and theremin along with a supporting cast of musicians on tuba and drums accompanied by what was essentially a string quartet. To make something simultaneously exotic and familiar is quite a task, but one that appears to be DeVotchKa's hallmark.

Urata effortlessly commanded the crowd's attention with what my friend described a "combination of Morrissey's charisma and George Clooney's quiet confidence." If the four women I attended the show with were any indication, he seemed to have a particularly strong effect on the female portion of the audience.

DeVotchKa managed to leave me thoroughly satisfied at the end of the performance, but still wanting more. Assuming they stick together, this was but the first of many times I will see them in concert. I've been to 23 concerts this year already and this show has a solid grip on the second spot. Other bands will have a tough time unseating them from this position.

As an aside, after seeing this show I decided there needs to be a quadruple bill of DeVotchKa, Beirut, Calexico and Gogol Bordello. That would be an unstoppable tour of genre-bending genius.

Download "Along the Way" via Pitchfork.

DeVotchKa - "Somethin' Stupid" mp3 (Frank Sinatra cover)