We are mainly inspired by fusion, by artists crossing boundaries, moving the goalpost further and further. We are inspired by artists like Devendra Banhart. Proud of his Venezuelan roots, perfectly bilingual, totally at ease with both his inner yin and yang side. We are in awe of his musical and visual talent, we are inspired by his quirky, deceptively simple creations. Live on stage at the Hackney Empire in East London, I was expecting Banhart to be somewhat aloof and distant, instead from the very first notes he was gregarious, inclusive, joyous, funny, a pleasure to watch. At some point he even lamented the physical distance from his audience, which was in reality minimal. He cuts a very tall figure on stage, his tall, slim body and body language reminded me of the Italian director Nanny Moretti, his beard more Latin American hero than hipster cool and I could see some of Beck’s naivety in his moves. At times when not playing the guitar, he would assume yoga-like stances, his hand movements spontaneous and well-choreographed to match the quirkiness of his music, this all meant that I had a smile on my face from start to finish. Visually the stage was bare, apart from the musicians and a small blue round circle projected at their back. The blue circle was getting larger and larger during the performance, in an almost imperceptible way, until the full screen was blue in the background, the perfect setting for the wonderful dancer joining the band behind the screen for the funky rhythms of Fancy Man creating an electric blue Chinese Shadows puppetry effect. Mostly playing his music from Ape in Pink Marble, his latest creation, Banhart symbolically started with a homage to a spiritual, visionary woman from the middle ages, Hildegard von Bingen and ended with a homage to David Bowie through Sound and Vision, once again the colour blue, or azul while singing in Spanish, as the main protagonist.
Devendra Banhart – Hackney Empire London 18 July 2017