The New Pornographers
Image credit for featured image: Rob Pongsajapan at https://www.flickr.com/photos/pong/4737340741/ . Used here under its “CC BY 2.0” license.
I first saw The New Pornographers in college decades ago: they headlined a fall festival that was held outdoors on campus and also featured a number of other bands. In anticipation of the festivities, I used the school’s extensive, ahem, network resources to pirate the band’s albums (which totaled no more than two or three at the time) and listened to them on repeat. The sound was different, not what I would normally listen to, but the more I listened the more I liked it. They had a beat, sure, but also harmonizing vocals, addictive chord changes, and lyrics that were intriguingly inscrutable – the kind of lyrics you could bring to your Poetry class for everyone to interpret. I loved the concert and bought a copy of Twin Cinema on audio CD as a memento.
I hadn’t seen the band since then, though I’d heard their name once or twice in the context of a festival or something. But when I saw that they were coming to Vermont, I knew I’d have to see them.
I arrived late, so I only got to see a little bit of the opening band, Wild Pink, though from what I did catch they seemed to put on a good show. Then it was time for the main act, and the crowd went wild. The lead singer Neko Case has some Vermont ties (spent some time here in childhood), and however brief or tenuous they might be, I think Vermonters grab onto them to claim her for ourselves. “We love you, Neko!” one concertgoer screamed, and the rest of the room burst into cheers and applause.
The band played a mixture of old and new songs – a little bit of everything. And I want to emphasize that this is one of the bands you need to see live. Their recordings are great, don’t get me wrong, but they put on a truly amazing show. And with seven people (including seven microphones for vocals) the sound they put out is layered and powerful. The light pop lyrics float above a powerful, thumping backdrop of the instruments, and the vocals’ harmonies are brilliant. The concert planners wisely didn’t invest time in fancy light shows – for this band they were totally unnecessary. Their sound and their energy was enough.
Should you see the New Pornographers live if you get a chance? Yes, absolutely – and bring a friend!
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