The New Pornographers brought with them Californian trios Imaad Wasif and The Dodos as openers for their Showbox show last Sunday. The first, from Los Angeles, Imaad Wasif, the hairy guitarist/vocalist who grabs people’s necks to make his way to the floor (couldn’t he touch their shoulders instead?), played an explosive rock set. A “you need an earplug for this one” kind of explosive. It was a little hard to differentiate one song from the other at a first listen but they seem to be skillful musicians.
The Dodos, from San Francisco, who played for KEXP ‘s Concerts at the Mural series last year (this year’s series starts tomorrow!), didn’t have a particular setlist in mind and played whatever they felt like it until they ran out of ideas and asked the crowd to step in and decide. Their melodies are interesting’ combining soft vocals, (mostly acoustic) guitar, drums and a vibraphone that was sometimes played with bows by Keaton Snyder. “Fables” stood out and sounded very good.
It seemed a little out of ordinary when the schedule informed that The New Pornographers would play from 10:20 PM until midnight; it would be a considerably long show compared to the usual 1:15-1:30 duration of headliners. Could there be a misunderstanding or some kind of typo? The endless setlist placed on stage, however, confirmed: 20 songs plus 3 for the encore. Apparently, the band makes sure that their entire catalogue is represented -- out of those 23 songs; only 6 were from their latest, Together. Starting with “Sing Me Spanish Techno” from “Twin Cinema” and ending with “Testament To Youth In Verse” from “Electric Version”, the concert was a celebration of a band that simply has a lot of great songs and is generous enough to play as many as they can. The audience was delighted, with girls screaming their love for Neko Case, who was rocking awesome Iron Maiden sneakers and has that awesome familiar voice -- and is not afraid to use it.
AC Newman made sure the audience felt special when he pointed out that the second show (they played the night before as well) was way better than the previous one and thanked everybody for being “so into it”. And they were -- with all the dancing and singing and cheering from the very first notes. Meanwhile, drummer Kurt Dahle was a very entertaining character to watch: he made all sorts of faces, threw the sticks and caught them in the air without dropping once and still found time to do backing vocals (usually not without funny faces though). They seemed to be having as much fun on stage as the audience was on the floor.
There’s so much going on at a New Pornographers concert, it can be a little overwhelming: nine of them play three guitars, two keyboards, a cello (or saxophone at times), drums, tambourine and bass. And they manage to make music that, even with rather serious and heavy lyrics such as politically charged “My Right Versus Yours” punctuating the set, can easily make people dance and unapologetically happy. It’s a tricky balance to attain, it might have something to do with the lovely chanting parts that populate a lot of their repertoire and softens them a great deal. One that falls into that category and was definitely a highlight of the night was Neko-centered heartbreaking “Challengers”, first song on the encore, which was loudly cheered and was followed by “The Slow Descend into Alcoholism”, with a “don’t tell your parents we played this one” disclaimer for the all-ages show, which took the melancholy of thirty seconds before away completely. Also impressive was the “Together” combo “Moves” / “Put Your Hands (Together)” and its lead guitar, which sounds much dirtier and louder live, that riff is irresistible.
If someone happened to dislike the almost two hours of pure joy that The New Pornographers delivered, there’s definitely something wrong with them. For the way the crowd looked as they left the Showbox, however, that wasn’t the case.
The New Pornographers:
View more photos here.