Live Music + Gig Reviews

Dirty Projectors @ Scala, London

13 September 2009

Dirty Projectors

Dirty Projectors

An awful lot of time in a gig-goer’s life can be taken up by watching dull indie also-rans in support slots, flashes in the pan whose belief they’ll attain stardom can be so unfathomable that the only course of action is to head to the bar for another overpriced pint.

So it’s always a joy when promoters get it right. Tonight they’ve brought two unique, talent-endowed artists to a London stage on a dull Sunday evening, and clearly there’s only one place to be; as the large snake of people queuing outside the Scala before doors testifies.

This was only Tune-Yards‘ third show in this country, the first being the awe-inspiring late night slot at The Breeders-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in May, which proved to be a highlight of the year. Her searing voice, yodels and sheer intensity had the whole crowd rotting for her. Even in the short time since that show, she has improved even more. Now with an additional bass player, the songs from debut release Bird Brains are given new layers and depth while the new songs that dominate the set promise very encouraging things indeed, one track performed entirely a cappella being a particular highlight.

What’s even more heart-warming is that she seems genuinely thrilled to be here and that people are clearly already familiar with her (“Who has actually heard me before?” she pips to a sea of raised hands) and album highlight Hatari is requested more than once (“Later!”). It’s all too brief; after half an hour she leaves the stage to a rapturous reception and cries for an encore that never comes.

A lot for Dirty Projectors to follow, then. But once the opening Nico-lite Two Doves fills the room, any suspicions the band wouldn’t be up to it have vanished. It’s glorious – Angel Deradoorian’s dreamy vocal performance sets the tone beautifully and the unusually silent London audience are keen to soak it up.

Now a six-piece, the band’s newer material allows them to function with far more flow. The sparse soundscapes of the past (as demonstrated on a breathtaking Police Story) have made way for epic, stop-start-stop gems (Useful Chamber) and the almost-R’n’B-like Stillness Is The Move, with Amber Coffman’s confidence shimmering, having been kept hidden in the background in past performances.

There is an interlude for the old tracks, where the two recent additions leave the stage, demonstrating how far the band has progressed over just a matter of a few years, with vocalist Dave Longstreth becoming much more of a showman. The songs’ layers, despite being constantly busy and consistent, still remain accessible enough to sell out a venue this size.

What crosses the mind the most when watching a band like this is: where next? With such a diverse, experimental and talented group of people, it’s an exciting prospect as to what else they can achieve.

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