Concert Reviews

DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks, with Airborne Toxic Event, 9/20/12


DeVotchKa played their first show with the Colorado Symphony in February at Boettcher Concert Hall, moving longtime fans and enthusiasts to a state of tearful and awe-inspiring bliss. Last night, the rare and remarkable collaboration played for a larger audience at Red Rocks Amphitheatre -- and the unexpected, yet perfectly natural musical chemistry between the two groups proved transcendent once again.

See also: - DeVotchKa's Nick Urata on the band's cinematic approach to songwriting - The members of DeVotchKa found success by following their own muse

The crowd was hanging on to Nick Urata's every word -- but this isn't new territory for DeVotchKa fans. The opening of their first song of the night, "The Alley," began with a descending sweep from the string section, moving into Urata's striking, passionate croons. As the first, and arguably, the most exquisite song off of the band's most recent album, 100 Lovers, it set the tone for the rest of the show, dazzling fans whose gazes were locked devotedly on the stage.

"Clockwise Witness," a song off of 2008's A Mad and Faithful Telling, opened with a mechanical, back-and-forth shift between plucked strings and drums and bass. Urata's vocals moved from sweet and clear to a vulnerable plea, and everywhere in between. If there is one song that deserves the shared attention of the band and symphony, it's this one -- yet somehow, the songs keep coming, and the idea that you could say that about each and every song starts to settle.

"Comrade Z," another shining song of the set, is another example of how the orchestra has the ability to deepen and enhance the already stellar and well-built instrumentation of the original track. It was the first chance the audience had to hear the full force of more than sixty musicians -- and the result was vast, booming. This combination, in union with the acoustics that Red Rocks is known for, coupled with the incredible experience of being on a mountain listening to a symphony, was an absolute dream.

There's something about the presence of a symphony that suggests formality -- and DeVotchKa fans have rarely had to be formal at any of their other shows. Understandably, people didn't rise and fill the aisles at the show at Boettcher Concert Hall in February -- but at this point in the show at Red Rocks, people started to compromise their desire to move with the old-world beauty of what was going on below -- and fans started to dance. Not everyone, not even more than a handful of people throughout the venue, in the crowd or flanking the aisles, but when a few brave souls started the movement, more and more people opened up to the possibilities of such an unusual concert setting.

In "All the Sand in all the Sea," the whole band shined. Tom Hagerman was masterful on the keys, and Shawn King played a quick-paced percussive beat. Jeanie Schroder moved from her tuba to the upright bass, and Urata's vocals were supremely melancholy, bordering on the edge of painful.

On the instrumental ballad "Firetrucks on the Boardwalk," Hagerman broke out the accordion, Schroder played a mournful tuba solo, and once again the string section shined for a song that can only be described as the soundtrack to a saga of epic proportions. On "We're Leaving," Urata introduced a mariachi section that breathed life into an already vibrant track.

The audience swooned over "You Love Me," a favorite track off of 2004's How It Ends -- but after a spirited "Enemy Guns," fans were elated to hear the first few notes of "How It Ends" for the encore of what has been an incredibly content rich show for the senses -- the perfect conclusion for such a successful collaboration.

Keep reading for more on Airborne Toxic Event's set, as well as Setlists and Critic's Notebook.

Before DeVotchka's set, Airborne Toxic Event played to a seriously enthusiastic crowd -- fans seemed to know every word to each song they played, especially in "Wishing Well" and "Sometime Around Midnight," where the symphony heightened the drama of lyrics about the nostalgia of past love. In "Missy," frontman Mikel Jollett boasted the ability of his band's rhythm section to play in any genre that the crowd could yell out -- and rightfully so. "Missy" was played in the styles of reggae, punk rock, country and game.

Any and every band has the potential to sound amazing when playing with a full symphony. In the case of Airborne Toxic Event, it did just that -- but with DeVotchKa, joining forces with a symphony seems to be something they were made to do. They didn't just prove capable -- they proved to be an uncanny and natural fit for this kind of performance, and, reciprocally, the depth and shading of sound that more than sixty orchestra members offered allowed each song to reach its full potential.


Airborne Toxic Event Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO 09.20.12

All at Once Half of Something Else The Secret Timeless Wishing Well Safe Changing What's in a Name All I Ever Wanted Fifth Day Sometime Around Midnight Innocence Missy

DeVotchKa Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Morrison, CO 09.20.12

The Alley Clockwise Witness Along The Way Common Good Comrade Z All the Sand in all the Sea Firetrucks on the Boardwalk Undone Queen of the Surface Streets We're Leaving Contrabanda You Love Me Enemy Guns


How It Ends

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Samantha Alviani
Contact: Samantha Alviani