Originally Published In The Daily Free Press on 3/29/11
The eclectic indie rock outfit DeVotchKa brought their Eastern-European romps, Latin flair and theatric indie-rock to the Paradise Rock Club on Saturday in what proved to be a tremendously fun evening. The opening act, Mariachi El Bronx – a side project of hardcore rockers The Bronx – fully embraced their traditional Mexican alter egos. Dapper in ornate black charro outfits, they got the audience dancing to the harmony of vihuela, Guitarrón, trumpet, violin and more. After El Bronx’s lively 30-minute set, DeVotchKa took the stage, kicking things off with “The Alley,” the opener of their most recent album, 100 Lovers. While DeVotchKa seems intent on reaching the cathartic highs of bands such as Arcade Fire on 100 Lovers, they still are an act that’s ripe for intimate settings reminiscent of their early burlesque days, and their showing at Paradise certainly reflected that.
Lead singer Nick Urata delivered lyrics in his perfectly sultry voice. His graying scruff, a perfect complement to his passionate croon, heightened his suave wine-swigging, all-black-wearing persona. While Urata was certainly not a man of many words, he forged a great connection with the audience. During the band’s indie-classic, “How It Ends,” Urata had the audience take over, turning his microphone to the loyal supporters who returned the love by sharing lyrical duties.
DeVotchKa pulled from all over their collection in their 19-song set. Highlights include “The Man From San Sebastian” with its sinister cinematic Spanish flair, their menacing Mexican Western “The Enemy Guns” and the unexpected and simple accordion and guitar cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” However, it was DeVotchKa’s many Eastern-European romps that really took the show to higher level. Songs such as “Basso Profundo” and “Vengo! Vengo!” got the audience moving and grooving to the sounds of accordion, violin and a sousaphone ornamented with multicolored Christmas lights.
The band closed with “Ranchero,” a track with modest beginnings that soon transformed into yet another buoyant European number. What made the piece even more stirring was Urata’s use of two unconventional instruments, the bouzouki and Theremin, the former being a Greek mandolin-looking instrument that delivered an unexpectedly dark vibe while the latter is an eerie sounding electric device. Throughout the song, Urata frantically played his bouzouki while performing a leg-kicking jive reminiscent of a Russian folk dance. Urata then ventured over to the Theremin, playing both instruments at once, much to the delight of the audience. After what felt like 10 exhilarating minutes, Urata thanked the audience, took a swig of wine, raised his arms and spilled all over himself. This didn’t perturb him, and he nonchalantly went back to playing the bouzouki, this time with the wine bottle.
Overall, DeVotchka’s worldly roots blended effortlessly with their indie rock for a captivating show. They played a lively hour and a half in front of a highly energetic crowd, proving that the bouzouki can certainly be badass.