The New Pornographers are guilty of taking the basic elements of pop rock — sweet arrangements, melodies and harmonies — and creating timeless, shiny, sugar-coated nuggets that you can’t really get enough of. Although the group has been around since 1997, only in the last three years have people taken notice of such well-crafted tunes. And on this North American tour, which features openers Immaculate Machine and Destroyer, you get the sense the group is now something akin to Toronto’s Broken Social Scene: more of a musical collective/family far greater than the sum of its parts.
Although the recent change to a smaller venue, the early set time and the fact it was Canada’s Thanksgiving weekend might have been reasons to dampen the mood, the New Pornographers plowed through their lively, toe-tapping, hook-riddled catalog with as much oomph as you’d expect from the creators of 2000’s “Mass Romantic” and this year’s “Twin Cinema.” Opening with the title track from the new record, Carl Newman and Neko Case were two of five musicians out in front with keyboardists Blaine Thurier and Newman’s newfound niece Kathryn Calder (of Immaculate Machine) on either end. And from the start of the 18-song, 80-minute set, the band rarely let the momentum sag.
Throughout the evening, the seven and sometimes eight-piece unit was often two, three or four harmonies deep thanks to Thurier and Calder but also drummer Kurt Dahle (also of Destroyer), who kept the between-song banter humorous during a debate about Thanksgiving.
Icing on the already ideal musical cake came in the form of New Porn songwriter/ Destroyer lead singer/guitarist Dan Bejar. He sauntered onstage for the quirky, foot-stomping “Jackie, Dressed in Cobras” and “Streets Of Fire,” a microphone in one hand and a beer in the other.
Other highlights included “The Laws Have Changed” and the infectious “The Fake Headlines,” the latter featuring Calder and Dahle tossing tambourine and drumsticks back and forth to each other.
With a strict 10 p.m. curfew looming, the band managed to churn out as much as it could, rounding off the main set with the stellar “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism” and the new album’s crowning jewel “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” with fans singing along quite loudly to both. After two encores with a string of tunes from “Electric Version,” the New Pornographers had capped off another sinfully pleasurable gig.
Here is the New Pornographers set list:
“The Laws Have Changed”
“Jackie, Dressed in Cobras”
“These Are the Fables”
“The Bleeding Heart Show”
“Streets of Fire”
“The Fake Headlines”
“It’s Only Divine Right”
“All for Swinging You Around”
“The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”
“Sing Me Spanish Techno”
“The Body Says No”
“The Electric Version”
“Testament to Youth in Verse”
“Miss Teen Wordpower”
“Letter From an Occupant”