This show wasn’t originally on their tour, but it was added shortly after the Dirty Projectors played at the Malkin Bowl last May. Someone must have realized this was what Vancouver needed after counting the number of people who crowded the stage while Dirty Projectors was on and how many skipped out on the closing act, TV on the Radio, to go somewhere quiet and digest what they had heard.
Dirty Projector’s leader, Dave Longstreth, has a reputation as an ambitious musician. Fans that have been following the band for years enjoy the sort of records that demand repeated listens to unpack all the pieces, and there those pieces were on stage: the baby-falling-asleep loveliness of “Two Doves,” the west African style guitar picking in “Temulca Sunrise” that had been ghettoized to daylit folk festival stages for too many decades and the Mariah Carey high-school-bedroom-Walkman-fest-fueled vocal performance of Amber Coffman in “Stillness is a Move.” It would be tragic if the studio was the only place where these components could be transformed into their labouriously constructed wholes.
Instead, the band members proved that the stage is where they belong, reproducing the complex arrangements with authority and grace. Escaping the traditional role of backup singers, the triple-female-vocal harmonics functioned as the lead instrument in most songs. The concrete intensity this adds to a live performance is hard to overstate, but I’ll try: the interplay between their voices and Longstreth’s impossibly personal lyrics caused your reviewer to have a nearly transcendent realization of the deep underlying and eternal beauty of every small episode in one’s life, or at least, the one that happened that night at Richard’s.