On the new release ''Twin Cinema," New Pornographers leader Carl Newman carries the air of a benevolent dictator controlling every aspect of his band's skewed power pop and using his bandmates as tools rather than full-fledged collaborators. But there was no sign of that at the Roxy on Tuesday, when Newman's role was far more balanced with those of the others onstage with him.
Considering the increasing untamability of the New Pornographers, that may have been inevitable. With keyboardist and singer Kathryn Calder added to the lineup and wildcard member Dan Bejar no longer sitting out tours, there were as many as eight performers onstage. The band took advantage of the flexibility without getting muddled, with guitarist Todd Fancey and bassist John Collins standing unobtrusively in the back and serving as utility players while Newman, Calder, and Neko Case harmonized like an off-kilter Fleetwood Mac.
Then again, Newman may have simply known that he was outgunned. Bejar's rare presence allowed the band to perform the slashing ''Jackie, Dressed in Cobras" and others that would typically be dropped from the set list. Case, meanwhile, is a force of nature, a superlative pop vocalist with a twangless country keen of enormous power. If she's underused on the record, she was impossible to ignore live, whether singing her spotlight numbers from the band's three albums or providing sparkling backing for Newman.
''It's Only Divine Right" saw them hitting the ground at full speed and never letting up, while drummer Kurt Dahle contributed his voice to the five-part human carillon of ''Testament to Youth in Verse." When the chords at the end of the title phrase of ''These Are the Fables" were left to hang in the air, the audience sat dead silent, waiting patiently for the change.
Opening acts Immaculate Machine and Destroyer provided the evening with a sense of continuity by featuring New Pornographers members in their other projects. Keyboard/guitar/drum trio Immaculate Machine saw Calder in a more prominent role, tackling energetic, occasionally sloppy Mates Of State-like pop but without that group's ecstatic vocalizing. Destroyer pulled three-quarters of its lineup from the headliners, and its stripped-down but knotty indie rock provided an apt backdrop for Bejar's voice.