On Saturday night in Los Angeles, Dirty Projectors threw one of the greatest and strangest shows of the year from within the airship-shaped chamber of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The night was curated by David Longstreth — the lanky main brain of the experimental Brooklyn band — and built around an ensemble-backed performance of the Projectors’ highly dense and hugely bizarre fifth album, 2005’s “glitch opera” The Getty Address.
The event began with a set from the L.A. Philharmonic, four compositions — including Wagner and Ravel — hand-picked by Longstreth for maximum build-and-release.
Then came Dirty Projectors, backed by New York’s left-field chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound.
Despite being flanked by 20 performers employing all manner of instruments to execute his songs — not to mention having crafted one of 2009’s most critically heralded albums Bitte Orca — Longstreth appeared uninterested in decorum, usually looking down at his feet or back at his bandmates, and stumbling over a rare attempt to address the enthused audience: “Thank you guys so much for coming out and listening to us play, um, that music.”
His speaking voice may have been meek, but his vision was writ large across the night. Getty‘s 13 songs were stunningly transformed.
While cloaked DP sirens Amber Coffman, Hayley Dekle, and Angel Deradoorian piped and cooed an impossible-sounding array of notes, the members of Alarm worked their own magic, some blowing into bottles, one tearing at a roll of duct tape, and all displaying a mastery of the more traditional tools of their trade — woodwinds, brass, piano, strings and percussion.
The Afro-pop and funk-inflected “I Will Truck” was given spine-tingling texture finally freed from its on-record sample-based loops.
The weird choral Tropicalia of “Gilt Gold Scabs” was imbued with a Kaleidoscopic new range of colors, and “Drilling Profitably” sounded spookier than ever.
A libretto allowed attendees to attempt, at least, to follow Getty‘s narrative, which follows the spirit quest of a protagonist named after Eagles singer Don Henley and features a supporting role by famed Native American female explorer Sacagawea.
With so many moving parts, the possibility of failure lurked around every corner — an East Coast storm delayed the New Yorkers’ arrival until the night before the gig, effectively quashing the possibility of a full rehearsal — and yet, Longstreth and Alarm conductor Alan Pierson led their troops to an unequivocal victory marked by countless standing ovations.
The night’s third act was short but sweet: Dirty Projectors sans orchestra and drummer, kicking off a four-song mini-set with an appropriately pared down cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.”
Bitte Orca B-side “When The World Comes To An End” followed, leading into a version of “Temecula Sunrise” that’d make D’Angelo blush, and the bright closer “Cannibal Resource” — ambitious songs every one, but each played with enough slack and soul to melt any remaining formality from the room.
Etude No. 13, “L’escalier du diable” (Ligeti, performed by John Orfe)
Prelude To Act III (from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde)
Etude No. 5, “Arc-en-ciel” (Ligeti, performed by John Orfe)
Mother Goose Suite (Ravel)
Dirty Projectors with Alarm Will Sound
“I Sit on the Ridge at Dusk”
“But in the Headlights”
“I Will Truck”
“D. Henley’s Dream”
“Gilt Gold Scabs”
“Ponds & Puddles”
“Not Having Found”
“Tour Along the Potomac”
“Jolly Jolly Jolly Ego”
“Time Birthed Spilled Blood”
“Finches’ Song at Oceanic Parking Lot”
“I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” (Bob Dylan cover)
“When The World Comes To An End”