Devendra Banhart Brings the Groove to Theatre Beanfield

Venezuelan-American indie icon Devendra Banhart stopped by Montreal’s Theatre Beanfield on October 7th with his Flying Wig tour, showcasing his newfound dark and synth-filled sound. 

First, Montreal’s own Le Ren took the stage as the opening act. The singer-songwriter was accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Fez Gielen. With Le Ren on guitar and Gielen strumming on a dulcimer, the two played half an hour of intimate and pretty folk tunes. One highlight was the song “Dyan”, which Le Ren explained was dedicated to her mother. Another particularly lovely moment was Le Ren’s cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Colorado Girl”, which she sang as a harmonized duet with Gielen. The two had undeniable on-stage chemistry, cracking little dry jokes at each other throughout their set, while remaining always musically connected. 

After a short intermission, Devendra Banhart entered the stage. He was dressed in a slinky black dress, accompanied by his four-piece band. The theatre went from about half-full to tightly packed in the pit area, with people additionally lined up across the several tiered ledges behind the pit. Banhart kicked off his set with “Twin” off his brand-new album Flying Wig. This darkly groovy track had the audience melodically swaying with the beat. 

Produced in collaboration with art-rock musician Cate Le Bon, Flying Wig is a radical departure from Banhart’s earlier work which often got him labelled the “king of freak-folk”, though he hates that term. His new songs largely ditch the acoustic instrumentation of his early 2000s releases in favour of synthesizers and strong percussion. While I thought Banhart’s performances of songs off this album were intensely danceable and executed with ease and sexiness, it was apparent that most of the audience was patiently waiting for his older tracks. 

About halfway through his set, Banhart played one of his biggest songs, “Mi Negrita” off 2013’s Mala. The first few strums of this quirky love song had the audience erupting in applause, and they continued to sing along with the Spanish lyrics. 

One highlight of Banhart’s set was the lively and satirical “Fancy Man” off his 2016 album Ape in Pink Marble. This song had Banhart parading around with wide and flowing movements, singing his chorus “'Cause I'm a fancy man” over and over as he glided across the stage. 

Later, Banhart led the audience in a guided meditation, asking everyone to close their eyes and breathe out to “release all reactivity” and to embrace their “rainbow energy.” While a little hokey, this moment did allow for a much-needed pause in the show, providing a break from the higher-energy dancing and jokes of the past hour. Next, jumping back into the music, Banhart played “Fig in Leather”, a particularly upbeat and poppy song in his discography, but one the audience was certainly happy to hear.

Overall, Devendra Banhart’s show at Beanfield Theatre highlighted the artist’s unique confidence as a performer with a perfect mix of eccentricity and core musical chops. 


Aviva Majerczyk is the magazine editor at CJLO 1690AM. She is also the host of The Alley, a folk-rock show airing Fridays at 11:00 AM.