Live Review: The New Pornographers

“Here is the quick rundown. We’ve been here before.”

The New Pornographers

The most beautiful moment during The New Pornographers’ show may have been too much for Saturday night’s Newport Music Hall crowd.

Too much beauty or too much genteelness on the band’s part? Too much ‘bangers before ballads’ mentality on the crowd’s? Either way, the quieter, curious track “We’ve Been Here Before” features a slower tempo, sparse accompaniment and gorgeous harmonies from A.C. Newman and Neko Case.

The middle track of Whiteout Conditions is a time stopper, not a showstopper. It gives you pause. It’s reflective. And it’s near perfect.

Tonight, besides a brief equipment adjustment, everything these titans of indie power pop rock did, was perfect too.

A slightly older crowd showed up in big numbers tonight and it’s no surprise, the band’s demographic aren’t the undergrads of today. They are the undergrads of 2004.

A lot has changed since Mass Romantic hit indie kid ears in 2000.

The big 3 of the band (now an 8-piece), A.C. Newman, Neko Case, and Dan Bejar have all come to prominence and gained further acclaim as successful solo acts, and either gotten married, had kids, or been stricken by other serious life stuff.

A lot has changed, but these events, over the course of 7 albums hasn’t dulled their songwriting or compromised their pop perfectionism at all.

That huge voice that seems to come out of nowhere still emits from Neko Case.

Carl can still hit the high notes and produce these artful sounds and joyful noises that draws from the best pop of decades past but paints with an entirely different brush.

Opening with the politically charged (for them) high-energy single, “High Ticket Attractions” and running through an impressive 26 career-spanning gems, including more than a few from the new Bejar-less but nonetheless spot-on new LP, Whiteout Conditions, the New Pornographers were as polished in their performance and playing as they are on record or say, at Pitchfork Fest in 2007. When they ended their Saturday night set with live favorite (and unofficial University of Phoenix fight song), “The Bleeding Heart Show,” it wasn’t a surprise but it was a very warm and welcome goodnight closer.

So yeah, we’ve been here before. With any luck, we’ll get here again and return to the place where these timeless songs we love to hear get stuck in our heads for days and etched in our hearts for a lifetime. Whether it be live and on record, we hope to hang out again soon with this amazing offshoot side project that was never supposed to last this long – but we’re so thankful it has.

Words by Casey Bowers

Photos courtesy of Harry Acosta

I'm a writer who knows more about music, film, and pop culture than I do about load bearing walls, stabilized population growth, or animal husbandry.

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