by Matt Juniper
A pair of critically acclaimed artists at very different points in their respective careers made their way to Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall last Friday night to kick off an eight-leg joint tour. Both Dirty Projectors and Purity Ring have had strong interest surrounding them in 2012, with the buzz approaching a fever pitch in early July as both bands prepare to release albums. For Montreal’s Purity Ring, it will be their highly anticipated debut album following on the heels of a string of singles beginning in 2011 that seemed to grow in quality and appeal with each release. For Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors, the art pop veterans are on the verge of a breakthrough into mass appeal. Their unique brand of disjointed rhythms and aggressive vocal harmonies has been divisive in the music community but has converted a cult of followers large enough to ensure that no Dirty Projectors release goes unnoticed.
With doors opening at 9 p.m. and Purity Ring not set to take the stage until 10 p.m., a sizeable crowd showed up early to enjoy a beverage in the spacious venue while Purity Ring’s simple-but-bizarre stage setup awaited. At 10 p.m. sharp Megan James and Corin Roddick took the stage to a venue over three quarters full with energetic fans. It was a nice surprise for an opening act and likely a result of both proper promotion of the double bill by Embrace (concert promoter) and Purity Ring’s fast rising star.
A timid and unsure crowd seemed puzzled as Purity Ring sauntered through slow-building opener Cartographist. By the time the band transitioned in 2011 hit single Belispeak, progress had been made – feet tapping, heads bobbing and a growing sense of energy in the room. The duo played almost exclusively in the shadows, illuminated only by glowing lights pulsating around Roddick with each transition in tempo.
After six songs, Megan James decided the seating in the Danforth Music Hall didn’t lend well to her band’s hypnotic brand of synth pop and invited the crowd to leave their seats. Launching into Obedear with the crowd at arm’s reach, the band seemed infinitely more at home and closed their set triumphantly with Crawlersout and Ungirthed. Up close it was impossible not to notice the grin creeping across James’ face at the prospect of yet another crowd won over on their rise to prominence. See the full setlist below.
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Dirty Projectors hit the stage just past 11 p.m. to the expected wild applause. With four days to go before the much-anticipated release of the band’s latest album Swing Lo Magellan, I had expectations of a balanced blend of new and old material. Instead, the band launched into new album opener Offspring Are Blank right off the bat and didn’t look back, rattling off five new tracks in a row to an enthusiastic if not mildly perplexed crowd. It was an interesting decision and one that perhaps demonstrated lead singer David Longstreth’s willingness to hedge his bets on the power of the internet: ‘Swing Lo Magellan’ had leaked online nearly two weeks before, which was followed shortly by an official stream.
The new material is played confidently and lends itself well to the live atmosphere: the album is without a doubt the band’s most accessible effort to date. Still, it appeared not everyone had downloaded the leak or spent time streaming it. “This next one should be a little more familiar”, Longstreth says before finally playing Cannibal Resource (the opener off of 2009’s acclaimed album “Bitte Orca”) and we get a surge of energy in the room. Taking a cue from Purity Ring before them, Longstreth takes advantage of the growing buzz and invites the crowd to leave their seats and move up to the front. With the crowd on their feet, even the new material seems to leave a stronger impression. The highlight of the evening is wisely saved for the encore with crowd favourites Stillness is the Move and No Intention leading off and the bombastic new track ‘Unto Caesar’ closing out the evening. As expected, Caesar lends itself extremely well to the live show and will no doubt be closing out Dirty Projectors shows for some time to come.
Overall, the night was a tremendous success. Rarely do a pair of bands from such distinct genres blend so well together. While Dirty Projectors’ choice to lean heavily on new material (10 of the night’s 15 tracks) may have alienated and disappointed fans not yet familiar with the songs, as someone who has spent the last two weeks with the album I can say with confidence that the live renditions will leave fans extremely pleased on future tour dates.
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Purity Ring setlist:
Dirty Projectors setlist:
Offspring Are Blank
See What She Seeing
About to Die
Gun Has No Trigger
Maybe That Was It
Dance for You
Just From Chevron
Stillness is the Move