Concert Review: The New Pornographers and Operators @ The Danforth Music Hall – Toronto

It’s a tough gig being a band as turns reliable as it is peppy. Despite holding court in the most esteemed offices of post-millennial power pop, The New Pornographers frequently seem taken for granted by those who feel like they know what they do to a T – offering up songs that, even at their most cynical, sound like they were birthed whole in such a honed, refined state that they may as well have existed since the dawn of time. The New Pornos that pulled into the Danforth Music Hall this past slushy Thursday took a relatively buttoned-up crowd to task and hammered out jubilant, inspired takes on the best bits of their catalog, even in the face of a couple technical mishaps, including a broken keyboard that seemed to resist all attempts at repair.

Led by vocalist/guitarist/conversationalist A.C. Newman and a suitably widescreen-sounding rhythm section (new drummer Joe Seiders filling the shoes of mainstay Kurt Dahle with thunderous aplomb), the band cruised through plenty of note-perfect takes on material from last year’s Brill Bruisers and older, consecrated classics. Those wishing for the attendance of The New Pornographers’ distinguished occasionals were 50% of the way to satisfaction with one Dan Bejar – of Destroyer, Swan Lake, Hello Blue Roses, et al. – taking the stage every third song or so with instinctive aloof charm (Neko Case hasn’t toured extensively with the band for the last couple of years, so it’s not worth getting your hopes up).

The show’s best moments came from the harmonies of Bejar and keyboardist Kathryn Calder, especially on the suitable one-two punch of “Jackie, Dressed in Cobras” and “Jackie”, two of the finest pop constructions of the band’s early days. Elsewhere, Calder absolutely nailed her vocals on the main set closer “Mass Romantic”, proving why she’s become one of the band’s greatest assets. Even when their material isn’t the strongest (a couple tracks from the band’s 2010 album, Together, still come off a little tepid), their performances and energy are strong enough – and importantly, compact enough – to warrant a quick airing out. That ever-present dependability remains a top virtue for these servants of pop songcraft.

For our interview with The New Pornographers, click here.

Review by Adam Kamin (@A_Kamin)

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