Indie music would be a lot more boring without the creative maneuvers of Dirty Projectors. That’s not to say they’ve been a particular source of inspiration for the genre, rather, every release of theirs feels inspired — occupying a niche that few others maintain so consistently. Whether it is the glitchy — and at times whiney — nature of last year’s self-titled effort, or the new wave cool of 2009’s Bitte Orca, the band’s ability to switch lanes is commendable. Rather than feeling like a distraction, the difference between projects more or less feels like their entire ethos. Furthermore, in bringing their first tour in five years to the Bluebird on Tuesday night, Dirty Projectors provided a smorgasbord of sounds and flavors, serving only the best for their comeback.
Fans that arrived early to the performance were greeted by the disorienting guitar rock of newcomers Still Woozy. Goofy and lighthearted in their delivery, the trio, bolstered by a rather disarming penchant for melody and pacing, were an honest delight through and through. Sounding like blue-eyed soul for the urban Caucasian, the band sauntered along to a funky and breezy beat. At times, they’d haphazardly dance around the stage egging the crowd below to do the same, other times, they’d lean into a groove so hard you’d be forced to. Antics aside, Still Woozy set the night off on the right foot.
After a lengthy changeover, Dirty Projectors finally hit the stage. The Brooklyn-band set off to cover ground as far back as 2007’s Rise Above to their soon to be released Lamp Lit Prose. While the band’s last album — their self-titled effort — dealt with front-man David Longstreth’s breakup with former bandmate and girlfriend Amber Coffman, the new material and the performance, in general, felt celebratory. Getting out of his pitiful rut, Longstreth let the music have its moment — and it was a glorious moment at that. His voice bursting with excitement traversed tunes like “Dance for You” and “No Intention” effortlessly. Behind him, new bandmates Felicia Douglass, Maia Friedman and Kristin Slipp conjured riveting harmonies that came close to matching that of Coffman’s work. The new material specifically found itself in what could be the band’s most accessible territory in years, but still felt wholly as experimental in nature as we’ve come to know from the band.
Perhaps, with the absence of Coffman and the comfortability it carried, Dirty Projectors will continue down the route of new discovery. In fact, one of the most startling and show-stealing moments was undoubtedly when new vocalist and keyboardist Kristin Slipp took the reins of “Swing Lo Magellan.” Slipp’s gorgeous voice, unrestrained bouncing across the rolling melody blew the crowd away amid joyous cheers. For much of the performance, an instrument of harmony, Slipp took her moment to the head, blooming in the progression of the beautiful song with a voice that left a magnificent mark. The void that Coffman left may never be fully replaced, but maybe it doesn’t even need to be. The future certainly looks bright for the Dirty Projectors — here’s to hoping they keep cooking up the good stuff.