Dirty Projectors: Live Last Night

dirty projectors

Live Last Night

By Patrick Foster

Just two years ago, about 100 people watched the Dirty Projectors do an impossibly arty interpretation of a classic punk rock album on the Black Cat's Backstage. Thursday night, they sold-out the club's Mainstage. In between, the band took a massive artistic leap forward, recording the lyrical and astute "Bitte Orca," which combines art rock, twisted R&B, vocal acrobatics and Afro-pop into a shimmering, highly distinctive whole that is one of this year's best records. The band's 80-minute set Thursday was by turns entertaining, awkward and endearing, but mostly served to emphasize what a masterful recording "Bitte Orca" truly is.

(Read more after the jump.)

Tall and lean lead Projector Dave Longstreth (composer, lyricist and Yale grad) was the onstage focal point, but the real drive came from the massed female vocals of keyboardist Angel Deradoorian, guitarist Amber Coffman and singer Haley Dekle. Behind those intertwining voices, the show peaked when the Projectors harnessed "Orca"'s almost indescribably delicious swing ("No Intention," "Cannibal Resource," a sinuous take on "Useful Chamber"). And when they didn't -- "The Bride" was sluggish and the album's best-known track, "Stillness is the Move," stilted -- it was because they missed the recording's the sharp production and keening hooks. Even the holdovers from their punk rock interpretation (Black Flag's "Damaged" being the text) were altered by "Bitte Orca": "Police Story" and "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie" felt like the quaint work of a previous era.

That a new song (also performed last month on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon") provided the show's peak was encouraging: "Bitte Orca" has indeed made the Dirty Projectors the cool-band-of-the-moment, but they aren't stopping to ponder the meaninglessness of that distinction.

By David Malitz |  October 23, 2009; 3:57 PM ET Live Last Night
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