maandag 8 december 2014

The New Pornographers Live Melkweg, 7 December 2014

Photo: Wo.
Just a few days back we reviewed Brill bruisers ( Wo. took action and went off on a rainy Sunday to Amsterdam to see the band. Here's his thoughts.

Following Mini Mansions came on the Canadian band with what to me seems like the best pop rock album of 2014 in its pocket. The New Pornographers, I wonder whether they are still happy with the name, started the show, six men, one woman strong, with the brilliant opening from their new album 'Brill bruisers', called 'Brill bruisers' as well.

The New Pornographers is a collective, a super group, around singer-guitarist A.C. (Carl) Newman, who writes most of the songs. A wall of sound is created around those songs. There seldom is a real solo in there, everything is centered around the vocal melodies. Two, three, four, five vocal melodies are built up right over the wall of sound the whole band creates. Most songs culminate in fantastic choruses that beg singing along to.

In the songs there is a hint of the 80s, some new wave too, in that sense Mini Mansions was a logical support act. What The New Pornographers discarded, was the doom of the 80s, or almost, I'll get back to that later. The melodies in the end are upbeat, inviting to dance, positive. The ohs and ahs that are sprinkled around take care of that also. The effect of the songs of The New Pornographers is that they make me happy when listening to them.

Drummer Joe, photo: Wo.
Then there is the mysterious Dan Bejar. As far as I understand, we were honoured to have him at the Melkweg. Usually he doesn't tour with the band, just delivers a few songs for an album. Not seldom a gem with a touch of brilliance in them. As Neko Case wasn't present this time around, perhaps they twisted his arm, chloroformed him and when he awoke found himself in the U.K.? A few of his songs have some personal views on the end of times and/or war. Also here with twists in the melody that are pretty fantastic, not necessarily in sync with the text. Bejar was singing his song, took a deep bow and was off the stage as fast as he could. He just didn't seem comfortable there. If so, thank you even more for coming out. It was a treat for us in the audience.

As said Neko Case wasn't present, Kathryn Calder was. Carl Newman's and her voice seem to have been made for each other. The previous time I saw the band, in Utrecht some years ago, the singing was great also, but what I heard yesterday was fantastic. There were quite some heavenly melodies between the two. On top of that electric piano parts that added to the already mentioned wall.

Photo: Wo.
The rest of the band finishes things off to a T. Extremely tight bass playing, functional drumming, a guitarist who lays down this foundation and two keyboardists, one with all sorts of extras coming from a laptop or some sort of pad. A few notes from an old fashioned melodica? It was there as well. Between them the band creates this wall of sound from which a sound here and there escapes that gives this little extra to a song. Whether the totally electronically created sounds in 'Champions of red wine' or a high electronic sound created just by twisting a knob on some device or other. It popped up and disappeared again.

And then there was 'Backstairs'. No matter what others think of 'War on the east coast', 'Backstairs' is one of the songs contending for the song of 2014 title. This song has everything that makes a song interesting, outstanding and great.

Photo: Wo.
I must be getting old. Again I thought that this show would have profited from just this little less volume. There are so many nuances in the songs of The New Pornographers that got lost in the tempest coming from the speakers. The band clearly puts in a lot of effort in finding these small details when writing and arranging the songs, the details that make the songs of The New Pornographers unique. The details that I would love to have heard live also. That is the only critique I can think of. For the rest it was a great show, purely based on the music as there were no extras in lights, effects or interaction involved. The music did the work and it was enough. Great band, great show, great audience, that was of all ages by the way. From late teens to perhaps even early seventies. The New Pornographers found a way to please them all.


You can listen to 'War on the east coast' here.

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