Dirty Projectors - The Roundhouse, London 17/10/12
Having released the most ambitious pop record of the year, Dirty Projectors currently have a lot of hype to live up to. You would think that, given the compositional complexity and scope of their previous work, live performance comes with a daunting amount of risk. On record, the harmonies are mind-bogglingly intricate, the guitar lines fight and jostle each other with magnificent precision and the drums constantly switch between different off-kilter grooves. Their new album, Swing Lo Magellan, may be their most accessible yet, but still possesses their trademark thirst for quirk-ridden, adventurous song-writing.
Playing material mostly from their recent release, Dirty Projectors treat a houseful of soggy Londoners to a masterly performance of the highest order. David Longstreth, a lanky, compelling frontman, sauntered onstage and pampered an eager audience to a humble rendition of the new album’s title track. Performing live, Longstreth’s voice is oddly erratic and, whilst no one would ever call him a great singer, it all adds to the charm of their nonconformity and inventiveness. However, nothing of the sort could be said about the voices of the band’s three females. Amber Coffman not only proved herself to be a phenomenally gifted guitarist, but also displayed her astonishing prowess as a singer and front-woman. The three part harmonies between Coffman, Haley Dekle and Olga Bell are just as incredible live as they are on record. During ‘Beautiful Mother’, taken from the EP Mount Wittenberg Orca (a collaboration with Bjork), there was a moment when the three voices intertwined and overlapped each other with such skill and audacity that the crowd could do nothing except applaud mid-song.
‘Offspring Are Blank’ and ‘Gun Has No Trigger’ were performed with all the drama and splendour that the songs clearly merit and executed perfectly. The band were almost intimidating in their poise and professionalism when faced with such a challenge, but I guess that’s where regular 12 hour rehearsals get you. Apart from a slight cock-up with guitars on ‘Maybe That Was It’, the set was flawless.
The crowd began to bust moves during the RnB inspired pop of ‘Stillness Is The Move’, in which Coffman stalked the stage hitting implausibly high notes again and again (whilst a young, eager chap in front of me did his best Christina Aguilera impression...hand movements and all) and the drunken buffoon to my right was finally treated to the song which he had been calling out for all night, ‘Impregnable Question’, and then proceeded to give his nearest and dearest big sweaty man hugs as if his interjections had led to the performance of his favourite track. Well done mate, we can’t thank you enough!
Dirty Projectors proved that they can more than match their ambitious recorded work in a live setting without so much as a bum-note, faltering vocal or missed beat. They were well drilled and brilliantly nonchalant about it. Not many bands can shred over ever changing time signatures whilst performing outlandish, pitch-perfect vocal harmonies and not even seem to break a sweat. Ambition is next to nothing if you can’t execute it properly, and Dirty Projectors proved that they are worth all the hype and all the love they so frequently receive.