Concert Reviews

Review: Dirty Projectors Survived Its Breakup – and Is as Good as Ever

Brooklyn-based art-pop band the Dirty Projectors.
Brooklyn-based art-pop band the Dirty Projectors. Jason Frank Rothenberg
It’s difficult to predict what an album will be like a full two weeks before it drops, but if a live performance, two single releases and an accompanying scheduled tour are any indication, the new Dirty Projectors record should be a triumphant return for the Brooklyn band.

After a high-profile breakup with former bandmate Amber Coffman, frontman Dave Longstreth opted for a very personal release with 2017’s self-titled album that mourned the loss of not only the personal relationship, but the professional one as well. The album, surprisingly accessible in sound yet almost unrecognizable in comparison to previous work, felt like an R&B pop project straight from Longstreth’s bedroom that unfortunately lacked Coffman’s warming vocals and guitar.

With the announcement of new album Lamp Lit Prose, which dropped on July 13, it was fair to anxiously wonder if Longstreth had rediscovered the signature brainy guitar riffs, looping harmonies and unpredictable rhythms of old. After a performance Tuesday night at the Bluebird Theater, Dirty Projectors left little doubt about the upcoming release and tour.

Dirty Projectors opened with three energetic new songs and three new bandmates in tow: vocalist and percussionist Felicia Douglass, guitarist and vocalist Maia Friedman, and keyboardist and vocalist Kristin Slipp.

Fans seemed to be as relieved to see Longstreth enjoying himself back on stage as he was re-energized by the break. The show comprised primarily new jams from the upcoming album and old classics, both of which were warmly received, and a brief foray into the breakup album material reimagined with the sextet on stage.

A handful of fans occasionally still chanted for old favorites such as “Stillness Is the Move” and “About to Die,” but the vibe throughout the theater was mostly one of appreciation for the moment. It isn’t every Tuesday night that a brilliant musician emphatically announces that things are going to work out after all.

Dirty Projectors has always been at its best when each of the bandmates could showcase their respective talents, and the newest incarnation is no different.

Quite aware of the first date the fans and new bandmates were on, Longstreth wisely stepped to the side to allow for Douglass, Friedman and Slipp to all steal the show at various moments, with none of the three ever seeming concerned with replacing Coffman, but rather proving that they each add a new dimension to the band.

Although most of Longstreth’s greatest previous work coincided with Coffman’s participation, he seems to have righted the ship after the fallout and found his way back to creating some of the catchiest earworms in the indie-music scene.

Fans need not worry about the ambitious Brooklyn band anymore: The magic is back.
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Ben Wiese is a writer in Denver. He covers music for Westword.
Contact: Ben Wiese