Devendra Banhart live at The Village, Dublin, 29 July 2005

Devendra was joined by his band featuring members of Vetiver and The Pleased, playing an awful lot of material from his forthcoming album Cripple Crow. From Seattle, Sir Richard Bishop opened the night.

Playing a mostly instrumental set of his own material and covers (the most notable of which being a piece by his band the Sun City Girls) Bishop managed to grab the talkative crowd’s attention early. His fingers moved up and down the fretboard of his acoustic with a blurred precision. It was hard to tell how much of it was planned and how much of it was off the cuff jamming. It all sounded golden in any case, a combination of flamenco, American folk and Ravi Shankar.

Devendra Banhart then took to the stage with his band, introducing them as Hairy Fairy. I was surprised to see him with a backing band, I was expecting just Banhart and an acoustic guitar. The performance was about two thirds new material from the forthcoming album Cripple Crow which features the new band. Banhart seems to be very comfortable playing as part of a group, his distinctive voice has softened a bit to fit in with a fuller sound. The new songs stick to Banhart’s lyrical style of animals, teeth and childlike wonder but musically they are less folky than his previous work, sounding like a more psychedelic Neil Young circa Comes a Time. The first familiar song of the evening, “This Beard is for Siobhan,” was given the big band treatment and it’s all the better for it. This song was written for this kind of line up. Of the old songs played, everything was from the Rejoicing in the Hands and Nino Rojo albums. The exceptions being a weird adlibbed version of “Michigan State” for the guy at the back who kept requesting it and covers of songs by Canned Heat, Lauryn Hill and Charles Manson.

Banhart was happy to stand back at a couple of points during the gig to allow Andy Cabic to sing a Vetiver song and Noah Georgeson to sing one of his own songs. Feeling the need for a break, the band retired to the side of the stage and Banhart asked for any member of the audience who wanted to play one of their own songs to come up on stage. An individual known as Kevin accepted. He wasn’t bad. On returning the band played the new song “Long Haired Child” and a slower version of “Will is my Friend.” Everyone on stage seemed to be enjoying themselves, joking with the crowd and each other between songs and generally rocking out mid-song (Banhart unintentionally spraying the crowd with beer as he gestured wildly with a bottle). The band left the stage to leave Banhart alone with an electric guitar. He sang “Little Yellow Spider,” a staggeringly beautiful “It’s a Sight to Behold,” and another new song before saying goodnight. A final encore with the band was yet another new song called “I Feel just like a Child.” It was a perfect parting shot full of sunshine before we all went home in the pissing rain.