Review: Devendra Banhart at the Regency Ballroom

Devendra Banhart, brought his unique style of freaky folk and lo-fi psychedelic pop to the Regency Ballroom last night in support of his new album, Mala.

Banhart at a show in LA.

Banhart occupied the stage alone, just him and his Fender guitar. The brightness of his pink sweater was barely illuminated as lights dimly lit the stage. His body contorted to the rhythms of song as his haunting voice rang with distinct vibrato. There was something different about him as he stood in front of hundreds of fans. You could see his face, and his long suave hair wasn’t wrapped around his neck and shoulders. He was clean cut, barring the bone structure of his cheeks with modest stubble, and his short, shaggy hair was a remnant of his former locks. But the crowd didn’t seem to care as his shrouded, whispering voice still captivated their ears with grinning mystique.

Banhart serenated the crowd into frenzy with the playful song, “Little Yellow Spider,” from his album Niño Rojo, and followed with, “A Sight to Behold,” widely known from the popular TV show Sons of Anarchy. Banhart  paused to acknowledge his former city with sentiment in his voice, “In many senses, it’s good to be home.” People roared as he played “Golden Girls,” the first track from his new album, Mala. The band slowly took the stage behind him, accompanying him for the rest of the night.

Problems with the lighting became apparent when the band played “Baby,” their hit song from 2009’s What Will We Be. Banhart was motioning for a spotlight that never came, but his disappointment didn’t hinder their performance. He may not have been seen, but his 1920’s Spanish inspired tunes didn’t keep the crowd from swaying their hips like a high school dance. For all anyone knew, it was Elvis in the form of Banhart on stage.

Halfway through the show Banhart asked if anyone could see them. The crowd responded with heaps of “No.” The lights finally came on just in time for Banhart’s most rocking song, “Seahorse,” from Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon. People could finally see his animated gestures and obscure facial expressions, liberating a sense of pure fun and passion through new songs like “Fur Hildegard von Bingen,” “Never Seen Such Good Things” and “Your Fine Petting Duck.”

When the band left the stage, a chanting for an encore quickly erupted. People stomped and pleaded, and finally the band re-appeared. They played one more song, the bluesy ballad “Little Boys.” The crowd sang along to the chorus, “Even when the seas all freeze, and everything is lying underneath. And even when the sun ceases to shine, I won’t care. I’ll still have all my mind.” And nothing could have bothered this crowd, as one by one they exited the ballroom with elated smiles on their faces.