Let Me Entertain You: The New Pornographers @ Trocadero 6.21.10

For a few years now, The New Pornographers and I just couldn’t meet up.  When they played the Electric Factory (with Andrew Bird, no less) on the Challengers tour, I left for California just hours before their performance.  When it seemed like I would have a long stretch of time to see them in concert, they toured elsewhere, dispersed for solo outings or assembled in the studio to record new music.  Despite these missed connections, I remained sure that, one day, I’d see the Canadian collective in all their neon pop glory.  Sure enough, by downloading a live EP from opening outfit the Dodos, I won tickets to see The New Pornographers at the Trocadero last week.  This tour, supporting the group’s new album, Together, lives up to its name in that all nine regular members of the New Pornographers participate.  Not only was this a reunion tour of sorts, but the set played like a greatest hits, showing off the band’s evolution from revivalist upstarts to indie mainstays.  Ten years’ and five albums’ worth of music was distilled into an exhaustive hour and a half, with each member getting their own moment in the spotlight.

Before I get into the New Pornographers’ set, allow me to reflect on the evening’s two opening acts.  First came The Dutchess And The Duke, whose lo-countrified tunes, particularly “Reservoir Park” and “Back To Me,” evoke Lee & Nancy at their most playful and heartbreaking.  With two albums to their credit, The Dutchess And The Duke provided a rousing (if not entirely upbeat) introduction to the night’s show.  Next was the Dodos, another band who I’ve nearly gotten to see a number of times before.  In 2008, upon the release of their incredible sophomore album, Visiter, the Dodos planned out a US tour that included a stop in Philadelphia (either at the First Unitarian Church or the Barbary, I don’t remember).  For whatever reason, that Philly date got canceled, though the trio still came to WXPN to record a World Café session.  Since then, the Dodos released Time To Die, an album with which I was thoroughly disappointed.  Still, knowing that these guys thrive in a live setting, I was eager to hear what they’d cook up for their set.  As guitarist Meric Long explained, the boys had spent too much time enjoying their Malaysian dinner to write down a setlist, so their song selection was completely off-the-cuff.  While I didn’t recognize a majority of their songs (either because they were brand new or from Time To Die), the Dodos sounded terrific.  Their set ended with two favorites from Visiter, “Ashley” and “Fools,” both of which got an extra special edge with vibraphonist/percussionist Keaton Snyder augmenting the already frantic drumming of Logan Kroeber.  Theirs was the kind of opening set that would’ve stolen any other show.

The New Pornographers arrived onstage to the strains of a familiar-sounding action show theme, and launched into “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” one of their most beloved songs.  Naturally, the set featured a few of the new album’s songs, and of the seven that were selected, six are incidentally the first six on Together.  Along with the whistle-happy “Crash Years” and the stuttering “Your Hands (Together),” the crowd was treated to Neko Case’s lovely “My Shepherd” and the Kathryn Calder-duetted “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk.”  As expected, most of the night belonged to Carl Newman, though the frontman didn’t interact with the audience that much at first.  About three-quarters through the set, though, he opened up when someone in the crowd shouted for what Newman thought was “the song [they] just did, but by the wrong name.”  The tune in question was the title track from Twin Cinema, and there’s really no telling what song the overzealous concertgoer was trying to request.  Though I have criticized his ever-increasing distance from the band, it was kinda nice to have Dan Bejar join the group for a handful of songs (mostly the ones he sings lead on).  The Bejar songs that were represented were some of his best, including “Myriad Harbour,” “Silver Jenny Dollar” and the night-closing “Testament To Youth In Verse.”  The role he plays might be minimal but, at this point, the group would seem incomplete without him.

With so many songs packed into one night, it’s nothing short of impressive what the New Pornographers put themselves through for each show.  Do yourself a favor and see them as soon as you can because, at this rate, they’re going to burn out long before they get the chance to fade away.

Click the picture at the top of this post to see more pictures of The New Pornographers (and the Dodos) in concert!!

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~ by E. on June 29, 2010.

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