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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Spiritual Bonerz and buttcheek tattoos: Devendra Banhart at First Avenue

By Melanie Raydo

Devendra Banhart knows how to put on a show. Although he has a reputation for being a creep at times (“Little Boys,” anyone?), at First Avenue on Saturday he had a self-assured and charming air. Yet he fumbled awkwardly with his guitar strap and occasionally covered his entire face with his hair, Cousin It-style, but it was a winning combination. The the audience was immediately put at ease for a relaxed yet frenetic performance.Banhart’s backing band, known as the Spiritual Bonerz, definitely made the show what it was. Although they showed off decidedly less than Banhart, all were tremendously talented, most notably guitarist Noah Georgeson and drummer Greg Rogove. Banhart also invited some outside talent to the stage, passing Dina Rae from Cleveland his guitar as he stripped off several layers of clothing and drank beer in the back of the stage. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether it was actually a random decision or if he had scoped her out on Myspace prior to the show, but she performed better than the real opening act, the decidedly too hip and too serious Rio en Medio.

Banhart’s strange banter with the audience was a large part of the fun that evening. When a fan screamed out, “I love you!” he responded with a resounding, “And I want to dance with you! We’re gonna go to every base, but we’re gonna start at first base” in his goofy, awkward-yet-sincere manner. His choice to do a freaky, semi-unrecognizable cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” only added to the silliness, as did his bizarre commentaries on individuality and the perspectives of crows on being crows.

The only real downfall to the show was that it might have irreparably damaged my ability to listen to his studio albums, for they could never capture the energy or spark of the live show. The most disappointing feature of Banhart’s newest release, “Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon,” is how sedative it can get. One of the evening’s most climactic performances, “Bad Girl,” is a completely different song on the album, opting to be mournful and saccharine instead of vivacious and sexy. However, songs like “Lover” and “Shabop Shalom” still offer a bit of silliness with island and jam influenced grooves.

I couldn’t have hoped for a better performance that evening. Banhart mixed a strong body of new material with some of the most memorable songs from “Ni¤o Rojo” and “Cripple Crow.” He was a complete scene-stealer, shaking his butt cheek tattoos and dancing circles around his super-seventies looking band mates. For a good time, call Devendra Banhart.

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