Live review: Dirty Projectors at Disney Hall
The Brooklyn group released one of last year’s most celebrated indie-rock discs, "Bitte Orca," and Longstreth, one presumes, has long since grown used to playing in front of the type of crowd that views a concert as an excellent opportunity to tweet. But the seated Disney audience entertained no such distractions, listening with laser-like focus as Longstreth and his bandmates, along with the New York chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound, performed Dirty Projectors’ 2005 album "The Getty Address."
Halfway through the hour-long piece, the singer-guitarist seemed to seek refuge from the spotlight by pulling a hood over his head.
As uncomfortable as he may be with such concentrated attention, Longstreth writes music that demands it: Described by the composer as an opera that "examines the question of what is wilderness in a world completely circumscribed by highways," "The Getty Address" jams together darting string arrangements, thudding percussive grooves, elaborate vocal harmonies and quasi-Asian guitar riffs; the libretto follows a fictional character named Don Henley (based on the Eagles member) on a complicated journey across the American psycho-ecological landscape.
Last year "Stillness Is the Move," an irresistible avant-funk cut from "Bitte Orca," became something of an indie-scene hit for Dirty Projectors; it even earned a widely circulated cover by Beyoncé's sister, Solange Knowles. But "The Getty Address" offers a bold reminder of Longstreth’s background in (and continuing commitment to) experimental art music in all of its challenging structural complexity.
Near the end, in a climactic passage titled "Finches’ Song at Oceanic Parking Lot," the three women's voices locked into a kind of collective consciousness, hanging together like a flock of birds through a series of jarring melodic leaps.
Before "The Getty Address," the Los Angeles Philharmonic performed a brief program of pieces Longstreth had selected by Ligeti, Wagner and Ravel. After the main event, Dirty Projectors returned to the stage and played pared-down versions of Bob Dylan’s "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" and tunes from "Bitte Orca," including "Temecula Sunrise," in which Coffman, Dekle and Deradoorian repeated their flock-of-birds trick over Longstreth's African-inspired guitar filigree.
Perhaps surprisingly, the group declined to play "Stillness Is the Move," a conspicuous elision that felt like another dodge from one of indie rock’s squirreliest savants.
-- Mikael Wood
Photo: David Longstreth performs at Disney Hall. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times