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“This is the first time I’ve ever been excited to hear a band’s new songs at a concert,” the girl next to me confessed as we waited in line outside the Paradise Rock Club for the sold out Dirty Projectors show. She was, of course, referring to the Dirty Projectors wonderful new album, Swing Lo Magellan, and I had to agree.
Not only was everyone talking about the new record in line, but whispers passed from ear to ear about their limited 7″ vinyl; only 1,000 were made for the tour and 25 remained for their final stop, Boston, where their merchandise manager would trade you a copy in exchange for that night’s password (an oddly chosen “BRAKE PUMP” as posted on their Twitter). Myself and 24 other eager fans scampered over only to realize not only were they treating fans to the two-song vinyl, but a few copies remained of an exclusive release from the band’s label called Smuggler’s Way. The limited edition zine was made for Record Store Day (April 21st – our local Boston stores unfortunately didn’t get any copies) and features five individual, multi-colored flexi discs of unreleased songs from the Dirty Projectors, Real Estate, Cass McCombs, John Maus, and Villagers, as well as 24 pages of original art and prose from other Domino artists. It was clear from the merch table alone that this last show was going to be special.
Opening band Callers broke the audience’s reserved shell, allowing listeners to spill their energy and excitement for the soon-to-be-onstage Dirty Projectors. Half from Brooklyn and half from Providence, Callers had twinkling guitars layered over one another to help create a style not too far off from the Dirty Projectors’ – not to mention they too have a lead female vocalist. The crowd got most excited towards the end of their set when they played two tribal-like songs, the result of a collaboration with Delicate Steve, and “Howard”, a song that left the four band members grinning at one another.
The Dirty Projectors’ last Boston show was in 2010 and our city was stoked for their return. The relatively calm title-track off of their new album began the set and then transitioned into a roaring “Offspring Are Blank”. Fans began singing along with singer and guitarist David Longstreth’s eccentric inflection as bassist Nat Baldwin plucked his notes so loudly that the room transformed into a dance club, a bass line that continued its weight through to “About to Die” where it took on a more tropical feel.
“Boston,” Longstreth called out as if he were in a stadium. “Guys, it’s the last night of our tour… it’s a special night.” The crowd responded with a loud U.S.A. chant out of nowhere and Longstreth threw his fist in the air and jokingly joined in. The band then took a break from the new material to play “Cannibal Resource” off of Bitte Orca. As expected, the crowd went crazy and threw themselves forward as they danced to the downbeats and short female vocal bits.
The lights dimmed dramatically for the single off of Swing Lo Magellan, “Gun Has No Trigger”. The venue was almost entirely pitch black except for white hieroglyphs screened on the wall behind the band, the same as those seen in the original music video. Coffman held her hands behind her back as she softly sang the backing vocals with Haley Dekle and Olga Bell. Even Longstreth stood on his tip toes as he squawked out the high notes, tipping his head to the side and then pointing his finger down at the audience as if to say “I told you I could sing it.”
Coffman, Dekle, and Bell completely wowed the crowd with their quick trilling in “Beautiful Mother” off of the Dirty Projectors’ collaboration with Björk, Mount Wittenberg Orca. They showed off their angelic vocals again in my personal favorite, “Just From Chevron”, where the schoolgirl hand-clapping part was divided amongst the three of them to form a cohesive pattern.
Surprisingly, “Maybe That Was It” had a noisy, almost grunge sound to it live with just Longstreth, Coffman, Baldwin, and Johnson performing. It was impossible to take your eyes off of Johnson, though, who was smashing the drum kit so hard that one of his sticks split in half and shot up feet into the air above his head.
The last highlight was no doubt “Useful Chamber”, another track off of Bitte Orca. Through all of the song’s weird segments – electronic to rock to pop – every member of the Dirty Projectors was on their game, making sure to extract every sound possible from the already full song.
“We were thinking about it, and we realized we really need to give a shoutout to Beantown,” said Longstreth, getting a massive cheer from the crowd, as he then explained Jamaica Plain was the first place he lived on his own. “I was there for a few miserable months all by myself.”
The concert ended with an encore of “Dance for You”, “Stillness Is the Move”, and “Impregnable Question”. While it normally would have been disappointing to hear so few of a band’s older tracks, the setlist – which included all of Swing Lo Magellan sans “Irresponsible Tune” - quenched the crowd. Their new songs truly blossomed in the live setting, and everyone at the Paradise was pleased to hear them do just that.
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