Local Indie Pop Rock Legends, The New Pornographers put on a fiery performance this past October 3rd 2014, drawing two solid evenings at Vancouver’s historic Commodore Ballroom. Opening the evening were the exceptional Seattle-based indie-soul group, Pickwick, and a new local band, Cool TV. It was the start of the band’s Brill Bruisers tour, in support of their latest same titled Brill Bruisers long player, and so the bulk of songs performed were selected from that album.
And what an album it is (!) with several of the new songs referencing the bands earlier releases, and with an implied nod to the Brill Building where many of the best song writers of modern music have plied their trade. Brill Bruisers is the manifestation of mini masterpieces written within larger masterpieces, and as with those great albums, the devil is in the details. We’re pretty sure Angels had a hand in making the arrangements even if it were simply the band members planning for things to sound as they do. Even the newer sounds sparkle and shine.
The as yet non-single, Champions of Red Wine, seems to effortlessly reference Fleetwood Mac pop sensibilities and progression, and blend that with both a clever wink to both new wave of the early eighties and the spacey ambient/new-age synth stylings of the late seventies. The song stands strong, resplendent with Neko Case’s casual and detached commanding lead vocals, the thudding base of John Collins, and fine harmonies, referencing the old while maintaining a freshness and newness.
The current single, Dancehall Domine, cracks and snaps behind a cleverly crafted duet between singer/guitarist AC Newman and singer/keyboardist Kathryn Calder, with the effective punch of Todd Fancy’s guitar enhancing the perfect amount of crunch and working as a perfect foil to the upbeat keyboards.
The three contributions from Dan Bejar (War on the East Coast, Born With a Sound, and Spidyr) work on multiple levels- dashes of harmonica, harmonies with guest vocalists Kelly Hogan or Amber Webber, and the occasional use of chugging electric guitars, intertwine with electronic blips and borbs and beautiful synthesized keyboards.
Kurt Dahle’s propulsive drumming is a main component to the arrangements on the album. It’s almost as if he hits both slightly ahead and slightly behind giving the music more air, accentuating the keyboards, sharing space with the bass lines, guitars, and pushing the lyrics forward. In fact, on further listening, it becomes apparent that there is not a single filler or clunker song on the entire album.
With the recent departure of longtime drummer Kurt Dahle from the band, and border hassles for the lovely and talented singer, Neko Case, both Vancouver shows required some professional help, and that assistance came by way of Joe Seiders (of the bands Beat Club, and Bleu among others) to fill in on drums, and Amber Webber (of the bands Lightning Dust and Black Mountain, and also a brief stop on Brill Bruisers) to take Neko’s spot on vocal duties. Of course Kurt and Neko were missed, Kurt for his noteworthy jazz-like touch on the skins and Neko for her infinite voice, but both Joe and Amber performed admirably and the show seemed to move forward through the night seemingly without a hitch.
Here was the Set List for this evening:
Brill Bruisers ******
Myriad Harbour ****
Dancehall Domine ******
Use It ***
War on the East Coast ******
Born With a Sound ******
Champions of Red Wine ******
Jackie Dressed in Cobras ****
Fantasy Fools ******
Sweet Talk Sweet Talk *****
Another Drug Deal of the Heart (straight into…) ******
The Laws Have Changed **
Silver Jenny Dollar *****
Slow Descent Into Alcoholism *
Testament to Youth In Verse **
You Tell Me Where ******
The Bleeding Heart Show ***
****** Brill Bruisers (2014)
***** Together (2010
**** Challengers (2007)
*** Twin Cinema (2005)
** Electric Version (2003)
* Mass Romantic (2000)
It is in the live setting that one understands why the band is comprised of over a half dozen members. The level of detail produced in the studio is matched to a tee on stage with each member contributing significant parts to the majority of the songs. The New Pornographers make it seem effortless on stage, but observing from the crowd, one can see how much thought has gone into each arrangement.
By now, The New Pornographers are well into their tour, and have performed on a number of talk shows stateside. You can expect to hear a LOT more about the band in the coming year as this album is sure to score high on the many “best of” lists to come in December and/or January. If you have an opportunity to catch The New Pornographers live, you absolutely should.
Photographs and words © Gerry Toews / anditrocks.com All Rights Reserved