I'll admit, I hesitated to pony up the $25 for last night's show at Webster Hall. It might not be fair, but the minute a show passes the $15 mark, my expectations go up. Way up.
DeVotchKa , a four-piece from Denver, have been compared to everyone from Arcade Fire to Gogol Bordello for their blend of Balkan and mariachi music, classical and indie rock. Over the past decade, they've built a steady following through relentless touring with a battery of instruments in tow; their big break came in 2005, when they were asked to provide the soundtrack to the Academy-Award winning film "Little Miss Sunshine."
In addition to acoustic and electric guitar, lead singer Nick Urata plays bouzouki, keyboard, and theremin. Tom Hagerman plays violin and accordion. Jeanie Schroder switched back and forth between Sousaphone and upright bass. And drummer Shawn King could often be heard chiming in on trumpet. As if all that weren't enough, they played with a full string quartet. And a brass section. At one point, they even brought out an aerialist (rumored to be Urata's girlfriend.)
Suffice to say, we all got our money's worth.
But, impressive as it all was, their circus wouldn't be worth a damn if the music wasn't any good. For me, the key was Urata's vocals, which sound like a mature cross of Jeff Buckley and Beirut's Zach Condon. Urata clearly isn't afraid to keep his heart on his sleeve, which might have something to do with his Gypsy roots.
After playing nonstop for nearly two hours - including encore - the band saved their best for last. "How It Ends" is an extraordinary meditation on love and loss, with Urata's plaintive voice soaring out into the audience, lifted aloft by piercing strings that just about tore my heart out. One of the saddest, most beautiful things I've ever heard at a live show. Listen for yourself:
DeVotchKa is currently touring in support of their new album, A Mad and Faithful Telling. Future show dates available on their website. Go and see them. (More pics below.)