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Dirty Projectors at Richard’s on Richards

Dirty Projectors at Richard's on Richards, July 2 2009. Jessica Bardosh photo.

Dirty Projectors at Richard’s on Richards, July 2 2009. Jessica Bardosh photo.

Review and photos – Dirty Projectors at Richard’s on Richards, Vancouver, July 2 2009

– review by Shawn Conner/photos by Jessica Bardosh

Dirty Projectors is a band that threatens to drown in its own preciousness/precociousness; a gangly, possibly brilliant frontman/composer/arranger in the aptly named David Longstreth, three female vocalists singing complex harmonies, Vampire Weekend guitar, tons of hype for its new album Bitte Orca, celebrity fans (Bjork, David Byrne), and the de rigueur Brooklyn zip code. But I can’t imagine anyone at the sextet’s Vancouver show last night leaving unmoved.

First, those harmonies. “Angelic” is surely one of the most overused words in the music journalism lexicon (along with “ethereal” – I should know, I’m guilty of using both. On a regular basis), but no other word describes the shared vocals of Angel Deradoorian, Haley Dekle and Amber Coffman. Stunning, too, works. And Coffman’s solo turn on, I think, “Stillness is the Move” (the single) was soulful to the bone.

Amber Coffman concert photo

Amber Coffman with Dirty Projectors at Richard’s on Richards, July 2 2009. Jessica Bardosh photo

Deradoorian too got a more or less solo turn, when she and Longstreth began the show as a duo. (For part of the set, Dekle and bassist Nat Baldwin left the stage, leaving the band as a four-piece.)

At times, Longstreth wisely faded into the background, letting the ladies take over; otherwise his vocals had the same kind of preppie-gone-wrong intensity as Byrne’s early Talking Heads work, while his guitar playing is definitely of the under-African-skies-by-way-of-New-York variety. Though mostly super-tight and controlled, the Dirty Projectors did cut loose on a couple of tunes, including “Useful Chamber”, which in its most spectacular moment finds Longstreth repeating the album’s title backwards and forwards over seriously unhinged electric guitar.

Longstreth mentioned that the band’s van had flipped over in “Pau Pau” (?) Michigan, and that they hadn’t played a gig in the nine days since; not sure how much this had to do with the performance, but the show had a definite lucky-to-be-here vibe, one the audience shared in completely.

It’s hard to imagine Dirty Projectors at an outdoor venue, which is where they played last time they were in town opening for TV On the Radio; so much would get lost. But a mid-size club seems perfect for getting the most out of the group’s complex, thoughtful and ultimately gorgeous compositions. I think I pretty much loved it.

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