Devotchka (and aerialists) soar at the El Rey Theatre

Devotchka at the El Rey Theatre (Photo by Michelle Shiers)
Devotchka at the El Rey Theatre (Photo by Michelle Shiers)

As part of their winter tour, surprisingly exotic Colorado quartet Devotchka sold out the El Rey theater Saturday night. Although Devotchka just performed along with the Seattle Symphony, their El Rey performance felt no less grandiose. Having started out in 1997 as a backing-band for a burlesque show, the band have honed in on their particular brand of orchestral gypsy-rock.

They opened their set with “The Alley” from 2011’s “100 Lovers” and “Head Honcho” from 2000’s “SuperMelodrama,” wasting no time between songs. They pushed through one after another with occasional tinges of mariachi and western soundscapes. Frontman Nick Urata’s vocals shifted from textured croon to rich vibrato backed by Shawn King’s unwavering rhythms and a barrage of other instruments, including Jeanie Schroder on a lit-up sousaphone, making Devotchka pleasantly misunderstood but very palatable.

Violinist Sergio Mendoza also accompanied the band for several numbers and the crowd clapped and whooped each time Urata sang in Spanish. They kept long-term fans happy by performing a handful of older tracks, notably “We’re Leaving” and “The Clockwise Witness” from 2008’s “A Mad & Faithful Telling” as well as a haunting cover of The Animals’ “House Of The Rising Sun.” With such an enriched catalog, Devotchka remain tragically romantic in their nuanced cinematic sound. They closed their main set with the resonating “How It Ends” and but the fans, many of whom were doe-eyed couples, didn’t budge.

Devotchka returned for an encore featuring angelic aerialists who spun and swung on hanging hoops during a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs,” proving that you can take the band out of the burlesque show, but you can’t take the burlesque show out of the band. They also paid tribute to David Bowie with a cover of “The Man Who Stole The World” and then closed the evening with the exuberant and mature “Ranchero.”

Devotchka were preceded by punk-opera quintet Timur And The Dime Museum, who held attention with apocalyptic melodies and glam appearance.

Photos by Michelle Shiers and David Patrick Valera (via LA Music Blog)