The glorious promise of art rock, shamelessly fulfilled - such were the best moments of Dirty Projectors' sold-out show on Wednesday in the humid basement of the First Unitarian Church. The Brooklyn band began its headlining summer tour here with head-spinning aplomb, mostly showcasing its enthralling new (fifth) album,

Bitte Orca

, likely to stand as one of the year's best.

African-influenced lefty guitarist and Dirty Projectors majordomo Dave Longstreth led the way via boldly expressive falsetto croons and swoops, matched by the complex vocal arrangements of Angel Deradoorian, newcomer Hayley Dekle, and Amber Coffman (who took a break from her math-rock guitar-slinging to dance around and soulfully belt out their prog-Mariah single "Stillness Is the Move"). The women combined in sparkling unison or alternating cooing while bassist Nat Baldwin and drummer Brian McOmber (a research technician at Penn) worked the quirky, often startling time shifts.

Highlights included . . . everything: including a three-song mini-set drawn from the 2007 album Rise Above, a reimagining of Black Flag's 1981 classic Damaged LP, Longstreth winding down the title track with nimble runs showing the influence of late Mali blues master guitarist Ali Farka Touré.

Vieux Farka Touré, Ali's 27-year-old son, burned through his earlier, 45-minute set with a tight band of three countrymen and ex-Skeleton Key drummer Tim Keiper, focused almost entirely on material from his excellent new sophomore album, Fondo. Following last Tuesday's fine performance of Amadou & Mariam, it was the second Philly display of crack Malian guitar playing in little over a week - but the itchy energy of youth distinguished Farka Touré, who picked out scintillating torrents of trebly notes.

Skeletons opened, experimental Brooklyn compatriots of Dirty Projectors whose odd free-jazz-rock forays and sung/spoken vocal flights - not to mention conceptual pursuits - earned them early comparisons to the Projectors.

In the end, though, the concertgoers surged forth into the light rain illuminated by Dirty Projectors, some still shaking their heads in disbelief over how good the band was. The Projectors' encore involved the older "Ground Underfoot" and the closing "Knotty Pine," their collaboration with David Byrne on the Dark Was the Night compilation. As Byrne said in an online rave for Bitte Orca that will resonate with many at the church: "I know this is all too gushy. Whatever, congratulations."