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Thursday, May 22, 2008

DeVotchKa and Basia Bulat rock the Diesel

May 21, 2008

Diesel, Pittsburgh

Diesel likes to host emo bands and way-past-their-prime '90s rappers (coming next week - Naughty by Nature!), but tonight they presented real musicianship with two excellent pop acts, DeVotchKa and Basia Bulat.

Basia Bulat is an endearing Canadian pop-folkie who reminds me of Regina Spektor with an autoharp, or Feist with a smile on her face. She opened the show with an acapella number, an old gospel song called "Hush." That was a wise decision since it put the focus squarely on her sweet voice. Before long she moved on to the catchy "In the Night," which is shaping up as one of the best pop songs of the past several months. All it needs is an iPod commercial or an appearance on The O.C., and it's top ten material.

Basia's set was mostly up-tempo and energetic, a pleasant surprise since I expected more of tame performance. She played many of the best songs from her debut Oh, My Darling, including a brightened-up version of the slightly dark "Snakes and Ladders." The biggest crowd-pleaser ended up being the hand-clapping "I Was a Daughter."

I'm a latecomer to the Basia Bulat bandwagon, but I am totally on board.

As for DeVotchKa - I have to confess, I was a little disappointed when I found out they were from Denver. With all those Eastern European rhythms, I'd hoped they would've come from someplace a bit more exotic. And I've been ignoring them lately, in favor of similar bands with a more fun, party kind of vibe, like Gogol Bordello and Luminescent Orchestrii. DeVotchKa can be a bit more subtle, but as I was reminded tonight, with that subletly comes beauty.

Singer Nick Urata shined during the show's softer moments, but the climax came during a stretch where the string section carried the day. "How it Ends" was positively majestic, with Urata's vocals soaring over exquisite strings. The band closed with their Siouxsie & the Banshees cover "The Last Beat of My Heart." Not too shabby for some dudes from Denver.

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