Concept albums can be difficult pills to swallow, whether they’re populist works such as Tommyor and Dark Side Of The Moon, or rambling monolithic prog epics or clumsy neo-classical efforts.
Tonight’s run-through of 2005’s The Getty Address by Dirty Projectors falls in a different category. Written by Dirty Projectors main man Dave Longstreth when he was a sprightly 21-year-old, this is a languid orchestral epic.
Ostensibly, it’s about a character named Don Henley who falls in love with a Native Indian tour guide called Sakagawea whilst visiting the oil refinery on the site of the battle of Gettysburg. It all builds up to a long winded and ultimately bad joke about the recurrent dreams of Moctezuma (“I’m an eagle, your an eagle, we’re The Eagles!”). But even this terrible pun can be forgiven due to the sheer exuberance of the performance.
It’s almost too well executed for its own good, but is admirable nonetheless. Wes Anderson would have been proud. Witty and knowing, with a stripe of pathos running throughout, it confirms Longstreth as one of the real geniuses of his generation. His ability to multitask and create emotion out of thin air is refreshing. Ably assisted by the New York contemporary orchestra Alarm Will Sound, hegives off quietly confident vibes and relishes the chance to show off.
But this is not a one man show. Vocalists Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman compliment each other and add trembling harmonies to the lush orchestrations. The Getty Address is not for the faint hearted, the restless or the uninitiated. Thankfully the band had generously provided a lyric sheet whch helped to explain the significance of each number as there was no real break between tracks. A relentless hurting throughthe suite was at times overwhelming, but again rewarding. Longstreth excels in stretching his capabilities both as an arranger, a singer and a musician but he readily admits that he is better as a rock performer.
Thankfully he got a chance to show that side of himself as well. The second portion of the gig was a solo show by the five piece playing tracks from 2009’s magnificent Bitte Orca. Playing to a strangely thinned out hall, the energy was electric. Gone was the archness or tongue in cheek antics of before, replaced by a funky party vibe. It’s not hard to see why the album ended up on so many Best Of lists. Hearing instant classics such as Stillness Is The Move in a live capacity is a heady delight and illustrates why David Byrne and Björk have both worked with the band. They don’t restrict themselves within conventional rock boundaries. They happily incorporate Afrobeat rhythms and complex lyricisms, pushing what is expected from a performance, all with great ease.