Anytime a show or live album listing features some kind of "with symphonic accompaniment" note, people might be forgiven for still reflexively rolling their eyes. If nothing else, though, DeVotchKa have always aimed for the theatrical and orchestral flourish in their music almost by default, so a performance with their hometown symphony seems perfectly apt rather than a matter of overreach. Nick Urata's swooping voice settles among the mix of rhythmic rumble and descending chords with ease from the get-go on the opening "The Alley," and from there everything hits one high after another. Hearing the transformation of a quick, sprightly number like "The Clockwise Witness" into an equally rollicking but by default lusher performance is one of many joys, while "All the Sand in the Sea" takes the swift piano-led melodrama to even fuller heights and "Contrabanda" practically explodes into its dramatic conclusion. The all-instrumental "Firetrucks on the Boardwalk" perhaps benefits the most in terms of sheer transformation, with the addition of a children's choir at the end adding a cappella vocals turning everything into one heck of a end credits sequence (even if it's only halfway through the release). The secret weapon throughout may well be drummer Shawn King -- his performance leads in the mix at many points, as distinct as the vocals. But the crypto-Western/orchestral feeling of so much of the band's music is the real winner here, so the choice of orchestra is more apt than might be guessed -- there are hints of Morricone at his most stately on "You Love Me," while the swirling crash and clash that kick in "Comrade Z," another instrumental-only triumph, turns the Russian-tinged original into even more of a stormer. Whether it's the horn and string flourishes on "Along the Way" or "We're Leaving" calling to mind a Mexico of the mind or the beauty of the break on "Queen of the Surface Streets" leading into a triumphant conclusion, it's a great performance all around, and when Urata says at one point "Don't hold back because this is such a classy joint," the whoops and hollers that result say it all.
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