DeVotchKa at First Avenue, 2/15/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess

First Avenue, Minneapolis
February 15, 2013

With warm sentiments from Valentine's Day still lingering in the air on Friday night at First Avenue, DeVotchaKa only built on the emotions leftover from the holiday by delivering a string-laden 90-minute set full of both passion and elegance. The Denver quartet's stylish sound was augmented by a small orchestra composed of Minneapolis musicians, as well as Tom Hagerman and Shawn King themselves, who helped recreate the majesty of many of the tracks featured on DeVotchKa's newest album, Live With the Colorado Symphony, which the band recorded live last year alongside a sprawling 60-piece orchestra.

While the string and horn section was much more modest at First Avenue, going from a four-piece to a seven-piece depending on the song, they really brought a lush sophistication to DeVotchKa's numbers throughout the 17-song performance.

See Also:
Slideshow: DeVotchKa at First Avenue
DeVotchKa's Nick Urata on the romance and dichotomy of Valentine's Day

The show did take a moment to truly find a spark, as somewhat tentative versions of "The Alley" and "The Clockwise Witness" eased everyone gracefully into the evening. But after frontman Nick Urata took a moment to soak in the ovation as well as the size of the crowd, he greeted us warmly, "It's good to be back. Thank you for having us." Urata then led the group through an impassioned take on "Along the Way," with the swelling strings only adding to the song's emotional heft. The stage was then bathed in blood-red lighting for a rousing, poignant rendition of "The Common Good," which energized both the band as well as the crowd, and the set just took off from there.

Photos by Erik Hess

"Thank you for coming down to our belated Valentine's Day performance," Urata said a bit mischievously. "You probably want to forget all about that now and just move on, if you're like us." DeVotchKa's songs really do tread that fine line between being heartwarming and heartbreaking, with Urata singing about both love and loneliness with equal acuity. So both the hopeless romantics and the devoted misanthropes can take comfort within their material, as much of it seems to be rooted in the raw emotions generated by both intimacy and loss.

After the bouncy, dynamic instrumental, "Comrade Z," which featured Jeanie Schroder's resonant sousaphone, and a lovely take on "All the Sand In All the Sea," Urata connected with the crowd once again. "Thank you so much for coming out and seeing us on such a cold night. You've warmed our hearts." And with that, the band launched into a delicate, gorgeous version of "Undone" as a hush fell over the awestruck crowd. As the audience roared their appreciation after the stunning number drew to a close, Urata -- in between generous pulls on a bottle of red wine -- made sure to give credit to the mini-orchestra breathing new life into his songs. "How about this section here, huh? We pilfered them from right here in Minneapolis. You should be proud, very proud."

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