The New Pornographers Are in the Zone

November 21st, 2014

The New Pornographers – Union Transfer – November 20, 2014

Last night at Union Transfer, I felt a collective sense of nostalgia. The sold-out crowd that came out to see the New Pornographers appeared to know many of the songs, but they mostly showed quiet appreciation for the music, rather than jubilant release. That seemed to suit the New Pornographers, too, as cofrontman AC Newman said, in a song break, “We’re all focused on rocking…. We’re in the zone.” And within that zone, they played a smattering of songs from their new album, Brill Bruisers, as well as selections from their formidable catalog, six albums deep.

Last night’s show played to the strengths of the other cofrontman, Dan Bejar—who goes by Destroyer in his solo project. Bejar, visually distinctive with his raised mess of curly hair, full beard and rumpled, unbuttoned shirt, crooned in his odd, high register. On the songs that featured his vocals, he walked out from stage right, sang with nonchalance, bowed deeply and then disappeared again to stage right. It was an excellent counterpoint to the otherwise straight-up power pop songs that are the staple of the New Pornographers.

What made the performance so enjoyable, though, was the balance. The New Pornographers are a supergroup, with essentially every member counting as a someone who fronts the band. The greatest example of this is Neko Case, an incredibly successful solo artist in her own right, who sacrificed most of her vocal duties to support Newman and Bejar in harmonies. She tapped the tambourine and clapped with the audience, but when she blended her voice, it made the whole thing work. It’s that attention to detail that shows the wisdom of experience. Seeing that from Case and the New Pornographers reminded me that there’s improvement to be had over time and endless good feelings in the small refinements of prolific talent. —Jared Levy |