The New Pornographers | 11.04.07

nps.jpgThe show in Lawrence was the second to last date of the Canadian indie/power-pop gaggle’s three-month U.S. tour (before taking an almost two-week break, then heading off to Europe for a two-week stint). Despite their obvious exhaustion, they performed a show that would (upon reflection) rival most, if not all, the shows I’ve seen in a decade of concert-going.  

 

w/ Immaculate Machine and Emma Pollock

Liberty Hall, Lawrence, KS

Once in great while, you come across a band whose music simply blows you away. Everything about it fits–inspired melodies, multidimensional harmony, unique lead voices that change from song to song. Smart lyrics, bold guitars, varied percussion, layered instrumentation (adding keys, accordion, mandolin, melodica, harmonica). Surprising twists and turns, perfect build and overall balance. Perhaps you become obsessed with their records. You might listen to their entire catalogue on repeat for weeks on end. Eventually you assume that, yeah, they can make all that happen in the studio, but it will surely fall short should you see them live, right? Wrong. On stage, an orchestral circus of talent explodes before your very eyes and ears. It restores your faith in musicians, performers and humanity. You commune with the earth and have an inexplicable desire to pack your shit and move to Canada. This is clarity. This is catharsis. This is intelligent pop music with a profound lack of bubblegum. It’s the New Pornographers, and you’re ready to go blind. 

The show in Lawrence was the second to last date of the Canadian indie/power-pop gaggle’s three-month U.S. tour (before taking an almost two-week break, then heading off to Europe for a two-week stint). Despite their obvious exhaustion, they performed a show that would (upon reflection) rival most, if not all, the shows I’ve seen in a decade of concert-going. Though none of the band members did much in the way of overt bodily-movement or energetic stage presence, they didn’t really need to be physically expressive. The music spoke volumes about their level of commitment to the audience.  With up to nine people on stage at any given moment, each song seemed an exercise in precise organization-the potential for a massive clusterfuck lurking at every key change. And yet, these troopers swept through the evening and made it sound effortless.

A.C. (Carl) Newman, lead vocalist/guitarist and primary songwriter, marched his fellow multi-talented troubadours into our loving arms with stunning, genuine nonchalance. They performed nine songs from this year’s release, Challengers, and split up the rest of the set with appropriate favorites from their three previous albums. At one point, Newman paused to banter quietly, "Let’s pretend it’s Vancouver, get really drunk, fall down the stairs and get free health care."  Neko Case, lead female vocal and mistress of spectacular harmony, was spot-on and mystical as she tilted her head skyward, opened her mouth and made the world a more beautiful place to be. Dan Bejar had a handful of quirky numbers-at first listen, his voice and style feel like a secret you’ve not been let in on yet.  He is an acquired taste and a great talent. 

My favorite element was the choral quality to the vocal parts-the NPs truly use their voices as instruments. Beautiful, sectioned vocal parts with poignant, prominent harmonies throwback to such favored influences as the Beach Boys, but also include a strangely optimistic sense of new-world, feel-good, hand-waving revival. And I’m sorry, but there’s something about a series of gorgeous half-steps and three-part harmony that makes my chest feel like it can’t contain my heart. Maybe I’m a romantic, but I truly believe that great music affects people in physical ways, and this music makes me want to dance like a fool, sing along obnoxiously and lift my arms to the sky in jubilant exaltation. But perhaps, I’ve said too much. | Mandy Jordan

 

Setlist:

All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth

Use It

Myriad Harbour

All the Old Showstoppers

Jackie, Dressed in Cobras

Challengers

The Laws Have Changed

The Spirit of Giving

My Rights Versus Yours

Mass Romantic

Adventures in Solitude

Testament to Youth in Verse

Unguided

Twin Cinema

Go Places

Sing Me Spanish Techno

The Bleeding Heart Show

Encore:

Jackie

The Slow Descent into Alcoholism

Letter from an Occupant

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