Concerts Concerts Dancing Dirty With DeVotchKa

Dancing Dirty With DeVotchKa

DeVotchKa at The Mod Club
The Mod Club
March 30, 2011

Review by: Chad Hutchings
Photos by: Stephen McGill

The Mod Club was packed on Wednesday as Toronto was given the kind of show that nobody expected.


From their curious roots as a back-up band for a touring burlesque act, DeVotchKa has come a long way. As their catalogue of studio recordings has grown, the group's unobtrusive brand of gypsie-folk rock has gotten notice in Hollywood, landing them work with what's become a countless number of film and show soundtracks. This attention has served to catapulted the group to a spot in the limelight where they never expected to stand - a new fame that had DeVotchKa standing in front of a sold-out Mod Club this past Wednesday. As it turned out, the fans packing the house were given a show that ended up being a far better watch than any film featuring the band playing softly in the background.

Kicking off their set with "The Alley", DeVotchKa started a show composed heavily of tracks from their latest release, 100 Lovers, but not neglectful of their older, well-loved material.  This first tune was performed with an intensity that didn't slacken until they left the stage, but this initial strength was more pleasantly reassuring than it was surprising, since much of their music sticks to quick tempos and high-energy instrumentals.

With that said, listening closely to the bittersweet lyrics and rolling melodies that the band works with, you might be more inclined to spend the night kissing a lover than dancing up a storm. One didn't have to look far to see couples acting on the impulses awakened by DeVotchKa's live renditions of tracks like "How It Ends" (as it happened, everyone not locking lips for this particular song was singing along and looking on with starry eyes). Of course, for those without love on their minds, DeVotchKa's performance easily kept the floor alive in motion, and large pockets of jumping and wild dancing ate up most any space that wasn't filled shoulder to shoulder. 

Although the act didn't spend a lot of time directly engaging the audience, DeVotchKa's live show was quite a wonder to witness, on a number of levels. Most obviously, clever visual treats abounded, like tubas alight with string lights and engaging visuals spread over The Mod Club's multiple screens (think volleys of stars, birds and other simple images flowing from all sides). More impressively, as a throw-back to the band's roots, the audience was split down the center mid-way through the night when a beautiful (and slightly-dressed) blonde performed burlesque-styled acrobatics above our heads in a curtain suspended from the ceiling. 

Aside from these great treats, though, there was so much more to be seen on their stage. Listening to their recorded work, any untrained ear can pick up on a good dozen instruments often used in DeVotchKa's songs. But, on seeing the five-piece take the stage, you immediately find yourself wondering just where the rest of the band is hiding. What's soon realized is just how talented these musicians are. Seeing songs like the bracing "The Man From San Sebastian" performed live sheds a light on the vast talents that would otherwise be chalked up to impressive studio editing and countless accompanying artists filling in the gaps. This is not so. On stage, not a single artist sticks to a single instrument, and every pause between songs has each one scrambling to pick up something new to play. Drumsticks are dropped for trumpets, accordions for violins, upright basses for sousaphones, and yet nothing ever feels at all disconnected; no matter what instruments are being held or dropped, DeVotchKa's live show maintains the group's distinct cabaret sound and spirit from song to song and from start to finish. And, as a whole, Wednesday's performance didn't just serve to keep heads nodding and feet tapping - it cemented their right as great artists to the fame that they likely never expected to gain. These days, the sexy dancers work for DeVotchKa.

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