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Devendra Banhart Defies Expectations

August 20th, 2010

Devendra Banhart and the Grogs – Terminal 5 – August 19, 2010

Devendra Banhart and the Grogs - Terminal 5 - August 19, 2010

Devendra Banhart and the Grogs opened their set last night at Terminal 5 with Cripple Crow’s “Long Haired Child.” Fans who have followed Banhart’s music over the years likely associate the artist himself as a long-haired child—originally gaining popularity as a bohemian, shaggy-locked musician, prone to singing winding freak-folk tales over a gently plucked guitar. Yet the Banhart who appeared onstage last night, hair and beard trimmed short, dressed sharply in a tailored blazer, spent the night defying expectations.

In addition to performing tracks like “Angelika” and “First Song for B” from his latest release, What Will Be, a collection of mellow folk peppered with Latin influences, Banhart enjoyed shifting among different sounds, genres and moods throughout the show. He hammed it up as frontman, strutting and dancing around the stage during songs like “Baby,” and then Banhart picked up his guitar and revisited older favorites, with delicate solo renditions of “The Body Breaks” and “A Sight to Behold,” the latter as lovely and mournful as ever. When the band returned to the stage, Banhart shifted gears yet again, performing an intense, snarling cover of Johnny Thunders“You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” an extended classic-rock-style jam of “Seahorse” and an ebullient “Carmensita.”

Although perhaps neither fans nor the shaggy, psych folk-leaning Banhart of yesteryear would have predicted that by 2010 he would be clean-shaven and dancing goofily while performing a rocking cover of the 1988 Taylor Dane hit “Tell It to My Heart”—perhaps the night’s biggest surprise—I’m guessing if Banhart saw how much fun he’d be having, the long-haired child would approve. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Macchiarelli | www.jennylow.com