New Pornographers deliver smart, bold power pop
So-called “supergroups’’ rarely deserve the title. In the case of Vancouver’s eight-piece (or nine, depending on the tune) juggernaut New Pornographers, however, the group has managed to match, and even surpass, every earned accolade with its almost preposterous affinity for sharp hooks and opulent melodies.
For roughly 95 minutes and nearly two dozen songs that careened, buzzed, and gleamed with power and pop Friday night, the band demonstrated its mastery of the verse-chorus-verse format with seemingly effortless ease.
One might be tempted to wonder whether the New Pornographers really needed all of those people onstage, armed with cello, saxophone, guitars, bass, drums, a pair of keyboards, and many microphones.
But the moment A.C. Newman and his orchestra-size entourage (although, in truth, vocalist Neko Case is nobody’s entourage but her own) kicked into the brisk, buoyant “Sing Me Spanish Techno,’’ it became as crystal clear as the night’s harmonies that everyone, and everything, was in perfect place.
“Together’’ is the title of the band’s latest album of cleverly infectious gems, and its name sums up a collective that drew strength from, and thrived, on the styles and gifts of its individual members: Newman’s classic-yet-skewed sense of impeccable songcraft (“Up in the Dark’’); singer-guitarist Dan Bejar’s oddball pop jangle (“Silver Jenny Dollar’’); and most stunningly, Case’s gorgeous teardrop of a voice (“My Shepherd’’). And this was just the new stuff.
Aside from a small, early (and potentially uncomfortable) bump that occurred when someone from the audience apparently threw a CD at Newman, this was a pitch-perfect performance. More often than not, the vocal highlights belonged to Case, especially in an arresting “Myriad Harbour.’’ Case is a true star of the first order, but the band’s expansive musical universe, which gave nods to everyone from Cheap Trick to Electric Light Orchestra to XTC, was on sparkling display throughout.
One of the band’s biggest, boldest numbers, “Your Hands (Together),’’ (another new song), was an arena-ready anthem built on an a huge guitar riff right out of the KISS/Black Sabbath playbook. With joyful coercion, both song and band commanded and captured the night perfectly.
The Dodos delivered a kinetic 40-minute blast of tightly twisting, rhythm-driven excursions that came in bursts of sound and fury. A few of the California trio’s hard-strummed epics were perhaps too long by half but were striking nonetheless.
With close, crystalline male-female harmony and a passel of heart-tugging country-folk songs, the Seattle-based Duchess and the Duke were a tremendous early treat. They variously recalled the beautiful Gothic gloom of the Handsome Family, the basement garage-blues of the Volebeats, and the older pillow popcraft of the Everly Brothers — if they had a female singer, that is.
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