DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks, with Amanda Palmer, 6/14/13

Categories: Last Night

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Brandon Marshall
DeVotchKa's Nick Urata at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony. Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks

DEVOTCHKA & THE COLORADO SYMPHONY @ RED ROCKS | 6/14/13
Sharing the spotlight with an orchestra of more than fifty members, DeVotchKa ran the risk of getting lost in the shuffle on stage at Red Rocks. Then came the aerialists, who climbed high above the stage via slim stretches of fabric and performed complex, gravity-defying acrobatic routines. Add in the guest appearance by an opera singer, the flashy light show that spanned more than an hour and the majestic scope of the venue itself, and it's easy to see how DeVotchKa's music could be overshadowed, but that didn't happen.

See also:
- Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks
- DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks, 9/20/12
- The members of DeVotchKa found success by following their own muse

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Brandon Marshall. Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks

Even with all of the sensory overload on stage, the band's music remained the star of a star-studded showcase. The folksy, worldly sounds of frontman Nick Urata and the rest of the act blended seamlessly with the accompaniment from the Colorado Symphony. Of course, it wasn't the first time that DeVotchKa and the Symphony shared a stage. The two groups are regular collaborators, and their joint appearance at Red Rocks last year resulted in a full-length live album.

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Brandon Marshall. Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks

Even so, the precision of the pairing felt fresh and innovative during a performance that lasted more than an hour. It seemed as if the size of the orchestra had been pared down a bit for the performance, but there were still more than fifty players complementing the exotic sounds of DeVotchKa. And thanks to the benefit of past collaborations, there was little in the way of excess or waste in the arrangements.

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Brandon Marshall. Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks

From the first drum lines of "Along the Way" to the opening suite of "Queen of the Surface Streets," "The Common Good" and "Comrade Z," it was clear both groups had worked hard to find the right balance and depth in the orchestration. "Queen" found a complement for its Latin feel in stretches of melodies plucked out on violin strings; Urata's bass-heavy bouzouki playing on "The Common Good" drew a rich accompaniment from the orchestra's lower-register players, and "Comrade Z," with its sinuous stretches straight out of Russian folk music, took on the epic feel of a Tchaikovsky work thanks to the added scope of the orchestra.

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Brandon Marshall. Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks

That grandiose feel only intensified as the set progressed. After Urata sang the first lines of "Undone," three acrobats dressed in colorful costumes emerged from the side stage and began to climb stretches of crimson fabric that fell from the top of the light rig. They gracefully made their way to a rectangular box set up at the very top of the stage, and offered delicate and impressive physical poetry as the song progressed. By the end of the tune, the aerialists were arranged impossibly mid-air; their routine drew plenty of gasps from the crowd.

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Brandon Marshall. Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks

That wasn't the only visual complement to the music. Four pieces of fabric were set up behind the orchestra, and a backstage crew shifted and swirled the cloth during certain tunes. A consistently complex and impressive light show also kept up through the entire performance.

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Brandon Marshall. Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks

But rather than becoming a distraction, all of those elements only served to highlight what was going on musically. An additional horn section appeared to provide the mariachi-inspired lines on "We're Leaving," and the tune "Inseparable" featured a high-register, operatic aria from a guest vocalist, while "How It Ends" married the orchestral percussion of the timpani with Shawn King's straightforward rock lines on a small drum kit.

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Brandon Marshall. Slide show: DeVotchKa, Amanda Palmer and fans at Red Rocks

As the show progressed and the band finished its main set with "All the Sand in All the Sea" and "You Love Me," the time spent honing arrangements and orchestration seemed more and more obvious. It all came to a crescendo during the encore, a stretch of three tunes comprising "The Man from San Sebastian," "Til the End of Time" and "Enemy Guns." The lead melody line in "Enemy Guns," spelled out in a high-pitched whistle from Urata, blended seamlessly with the strings, horns and percussion from the orchestra. It was clear that the dozens and dozens of expert players on the stage had done this before, and the show was all the richer for it.

Location Info

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Red Rocks Amphitheatre

18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO

Category: General

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