from Teaparty Boston, Nov. 22, 2009
Devendra Banhart Plays Pulpiteer at Berklee Performance Center
photo by Jessie Rogers
Devendra Banhart was in a giving mood on Friday night at the Berklee Performance Center. Not only did he and his band, the Grogs, play a set that clocked in at nearly two hours, but they did it all with an eager openness that’s precious and rare on the indie circuit these days.
Maybe he’s always in a giving mood. From his long messy locks to his undulating hands that seem to be blessing us over and over again, Banhart oozes that wandering holy man vibe. I almost expected him to start handing out fish to all of us, or whatever it is that Jesus guy did that one time. Heck, he could probably start a cult if he wanted to.
Fortunately, he’s decided to make music instead. And what music it is—airy, pan-genre stuff that reflects Banhart’s NoCal-by-way-of-Venezuela upbringing. With lots of guitars and a little of every other instrument in the trunk behind him, Banhart’s poetic lyrics flow along on the current of his clear, sensual vocals.
Banhart and his four-piece band took the stage looking uncommonly buttoned up, the oft-shirtless Banhart sporting a sweater, tie, and crisp white pants. But they let loose right off the bat with the trippy “Long-Haired Child,” and kept it floating from there.
Songs from Banhart’s latest release, What Will We Be, dominated the night, from the sunny “Baby” to the pulsing “16th & Valencia, Roxy Music.” Mid-set, our lanky hero shooed the Grogs away for some solo work on sweet oddities like “Little Yellow Spider” and “I Remember.” The band returned to remind us how tight their harmonies are, even featuring a few songs composed by the other members. They topped it off with crowd faves “Lover” and “Chinese Children.”
This music already gives you the sense of being serenaded around a particularly groovy campfire, but the lighting at the BPC amped up that imagery, bathing the stage in yellow and orange and casting long band-shaped shadows on the wood-paneled walls.
And if that didn’t feel enough like partaking in an obscure spiritual rite, Banhart’s offhand, between-song blessing to the audience certainly sealed the deal: “Hallelujah, praise the lord, whoop there it is, again and again and again.”