Devendra at Cafe Du Nord | by Lisa

Live Review

Cafe Du Nord· January 21, 2003 Devendra Banhart sat in his socks on a table on stage began softly strumming his guitar. While his fingers spun dreamscapes, he sang with the purest form of soul. He was a little bit Jeff Buckley, with his scruffy pretty boy crooning, and a whole lot like a voice from a crackling 78 -- singing the sort of blues that came before the blues, deep South spiritual songs. He scatted and swooped and soared with the effortless intensity of an otherworldly creature put here to speak through music.
The audience, who had piled in on the floor of Cafe du Nord and waited patiently for Banhart in the cramped, hot little room, was rapt. Banhart's minimal banter was shy but charming. After each song, he turned away from his fans and took a swig of Corona. His lyrics painted vivid pictures: "Rays of sun lick your skin with its tongue." He asked a banjo player to join him for "Soon is Good." Apparently, the two strummed well past it's ending, as Banhart playfully improvised, "This is a done song. It's been done for a long time now" and went on for a good two minutes this way.
Banhart was not afraid to play around with various dynamics, nearly whispering one moment, and throwing back his head and wailing another. When a hand was free, it would fly around with his singing. At one point he swayed his head and scissored his crossed leg in and out on the table. Finally, he informed the audience quietly, "I think I'm done playing. Everybody go home." But he indulged the crowd in one final tune. Afterward, he leapt off the table and said, "Please don't go. I'll pay you not to go." Then opening act Entrance, the banjo wielder and another singer joined him onstage to close the show a drunken hootenanny version of "Good Night, Irene."