Devendra Banhart - Friday July 29, The Prince of Wales
Traversing the Mighty Yarra is a daunting experience whichever side you live, but nothing fills the inner-northerner's soul with more dread than The Journey To The Centre Of St Kilda. Instant heart palpitations. Nightmarish visions of your favourite pair of pointy boots getting deluged by the backpacker vom slowly cascading down the tram floor. Used hypodermics sticking out of the sand in rows, like ICBMs about to launch into space and rain radioactive Hep C down on Leningrad.
Lo, the spirit of redemption exists in the decadent lands of Fitzroy Street, and His name is Devendra! His recently cropped hair makes him look less messianic than usual, but that doesn't stop about two-thirds of the audience stand as if they were bearing witness to the healing of the sick and the absolving of all sin.
The acoustics in the Prince Bandroom mean that even if only a few people in the audience are disengaged, any silence or still note is immediately punctuated with loud waves of murmur. As I belong to the school of thought that teaches the watching of live music with folded arms and a stern look, this was naturally a little grating.
Through his cosmic powers Mr. Banhart sensed my anguish, and five songs into the set he dispatched his backing band. Whatever few heretics are left in the audience finally shut the fuck up and take notice. Here he sings about whimsical things while his words remain devoid of whimsy. In fact, the emotional tenor of his voice is impossible to define, neither upbeat nor cynical, even bordering on the autistic, but deeply affecting.
It's jarring to hear the same man speak so haltingly between songs, demonstrating all the shy vulnerabilities only hinted at by certain chords in certain fleeting moments. I want to be with you Lord, and I wager I'm not the only one here about to sell all my possessions and jump on the next QF25 to San Fran.
Loved: Having all the joy of joining a cult without the beige jumpsuits or prohibitive expense.
Hated: Impossible to elicit any negative emotions after even the most fleeting exposure to Devendra.