DeVotchKa with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 9/20/12 (photos and review)By Cassandra Schoon | September 21st, 2012 | 4 comments
Neither the Airborne Toxic Event nor DeVotchKa came to Morrison Thursday night as strangers to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Both bands have collaborated with the CSO in the past and both bands’ eclectic, multi-instrumentalist styles are particularly well-suited for a classical mash-up. But I don’t think either band was fully prepared for the formidable beauty that would come with 60-plus classical musicians and a fiercely gorgeous night under the stars.
The show was the Airborne Toxic Event’s first appearance at Red Rocks, but its second show with the CSO. The venue offered a far better sonic experience than the band’s performance at the Boettcher back in 2011. The 2010 radio hit, “Sometime Around Midnight,” elicited goosebumps with the symphony’s help, and a playful moment at the end of the set had the rhythm section playing in the styles of various genres as suggested by the audience (Reggae! Country western! Video game!). The ATE’s set was much stronger than its last turn with the CSO, and built a palpable anticipation for the headliners.
While the ATE did well with the orchestra in the background, DeVotchKa integrated seamlessly into the CSO’s big, beautiful sound. Perhaps partly due to frontman Nick Urata’s aptitude for film scoring, the band matched the CSO in a way that felt more composed than the first set. The symphony’s crescendos in “Comrade Z” and minor falls in “Undone” brought a breathtaking gravity to the songs, but with an ease that made them sound like they’d been written with the classical accompaniment in mind all along. Even the distinctive, dirty guitar of “The Enemy Guns” sounded at home among the horns and strings of the CSO.
As the last notes of “How It Ends” faded into the night, elevated from heartbreakingly pretty to sublime by the efforts of the CSO’s string section, I felt a bit transformed by the evening’s proceedings. An overwhelming sense of hometown pride in the CSO, in DeVotchKa and the awe-inspiring venue augmented my usual post-Red-Rocks reverie. It had been over a year since I’d heard the Colorado Symphony Orchestra work its magic on indi- rock. I sincerely hope it’s not another year before I get to hear that again.
Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and regular Reverb contributor.
Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.