Show Review – DeVotchKa – First United Methodist – 4/02/2011

Churches are significant cultural spaces for many reasons. They are built to both spiritual and practical aims: to focus reverence of the spirit and to reverberate the human voice. Unfortunately. most of us will never experience any given church. If you are a member of a church, you seldom visit others. If you’re not a member, you seldom enter a church at all.

Thus, tonight’s concert at First United Methodist was thrilling and unique. A sacred space of high arches and soaring acoustics, the church was full of wonder for an audience that may otherwise never step inside. How remarkable and poignant that the church was filled with similarly awe-inspiring music?

The opener, Chicago’s Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, summoned some of the manic energy of the Pogues, with a raucous sound that seemed to over-drive the mellow tone of the church.

Denver’s DeVotchKa filled the sanctuary with virtuosic, mystical gypsy-rock. Every band member is a multi-instrumentalist; they mix chamber instruments like violin, accordion, trumpet, and upright bass with rock guitars and drums. DeVotchKa indulges the esoteric via melodica, theremin, bouzouki and even a light-bedecked sousaphone. They played eastern European folk, Mariachi tunes, keening ballads and stomping dances.

In addition to the glorious sound, DeVotchKa employed a beautiful visual performance. Set against a backdrop of colorful light projected on the massive organ pipes and vaulted ceiling, the 5 piece group reeled madly through a beautiful set that kept the audience’s hips swinging.

The show was a masterful example of the synergy of visual art, architecture and music. It mixed new-world video screens with old world instruments and it demonstrated how the Mission Creek festival makes rare, precious experiences happen every spring in Iowa City.

For more–and much better–photos of the event, go here for Adrianne Behning’s post.

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