Every now and then a band reaches a special certain point in their career, having established such a solid, hardcore fan base, that no matter what they put out, no matter what the critics say, they’ll still have people lining up to go see their show and buy their record.
With the New Pornographers it’s just that, and a long time coming I’d say. I feel as thought it has something to do with their consistency or timelessness. It isn’t that their records have always ranked high on year-end lists, although some have, but that they’re on them record after record. Having released Mass Romantic in 2000, their catalogue has grown in the past fifteen years to include Electric Version (2003), Twin Cinema (2005), their turning point and the ‘divisive’ follow up Challengers (2007), Together (2010) and most-recently their sixth studio album, Brill Bruisers – all gems in their own right.
The New Pornographers blasted onto the stage posthaste and into the title track off their recent release, Brill Bruisers. Equipped with neon lit keyboard stands to seemingly match the artwork of their newest effort, the Vancouver natives already set the bar high for the first Canadian show of their tour.
Tapping the breaks a bit, out came Dan Bejar armed with a ruby red acoustic guitar (who would appear and disappear as he was needed) to bring us back to Challengers’ “Myriad Harbour”. Breezing effortlessly through their melodic set, without much talk, the Pornographers were able to move from new (the dance-pop, “Dancehall Domine” and “War On the East Coast”, an homage to 90’s Britpop) to old (the ever popular “Use It” and the infectious lunacy-ridden vocals of “Jackie Dressed in Cobras”) without missing a beat.
There was considerable reach achieved during the set, showcasing the extensive vocals from A.C. Newman and the insanity in Bejar’s undeniably novel vocals. Missing in action was Neko Case, but there to put in overtime were the sensual and beautiful stylings of Kathryn Calder.
The set was always lighthearted and cozy, especially on “Silver Jenny Dollar” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno” with A.C. and Calder cracking a smile and sharing a quick laugh. But the show also felt surprisingly familiar even with new jams “Another Drug Deal of the Heart” and “Fantasy Fools” as A.C. timidly agreed, “we can do this!” after darting a glance at his counterpart. The encore saw, “Ballad of the Comeback Kid” and “The Bleeding Heart Show”, the latter which might prove to be an encore mainstay in shows to come.
It’s hard to say if the more electronic components of their new record had any effect on the indie rockers instinctive taste or on the crowd of just around 350. The fans knew the songs, belted out the lyrics, and were seemingly convinced that it was just another Pornographers tune, one that felt like it had been around for ages. That statement has to be taken in the best way possible. I mean what better measure of success than to have fans who know “Brill Bruisers” just as good as “Use It” and who appreciate it as much.
In the end it might not matter what I write or how the New Pornographers career may progress but it’s safe to say we’ll always have the New Pornos and we’ll always have something fresh from them. At the risk of sounding too cheesy – with a solid twenty-one set list, that may see some of the deepest cuts be, well, cut from the set – I can already begin to see the legacy they will leave once they decide to call it quits, which from the looks of it won’t be anytime soon.
Review by Sean Carlin | @seancarlin89