Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The New Pornographers, July 20 at the Henry Fonda Theater

I've seen the New Pornographers before and they were always a good show but I always knew there was something missing. It was obvious that something was Neko Case, who also performed on the group's albums but hadn't toured with them for as long as I had been a fan (or ever). In that time she had also become probably a bigger name than the New Porns (the group probably wouldn't be able to play the Greek Theater but she did) and yet she still performed on the albums, never overwhelming the other considerable talent on them, though she could have easily, but being one more, solid element in a poppy mixture that always makes their albums a consistent thrill to listen to. Her own albums are great but they're different animals; where she might do an alt-country thing solo, she could do indie-pop with the New Porns and it was every bit as good. I don't know what stars aligned or what fell into place in the band's life, other than a new album (Together) coming out, but Neko decided to tour with them. The album is great, just like the rest of their stuff (except maybe Challengers), but it doesn't stand out remarkably and the tour could have been just another one that they've done. Not that I'm complaining. Neko always had a fine fill-in when they toured but they have a different kind of electricity with her on stage and just being part of the band. It's a wonder now how they ever performed something like "Letter from an Occupant" without her (or maybe they never did). The New Porns were never incomplete without her but once she was with them, just being another member of the band, they felt like they had in concert delivered upon what they'd promised on their albums. Also part of the band for this tour was Dan Bejar, a wild-haired dude who, I didn't realize, sang on a number of their more energetic (though weirder) song, like "Myriad Harbor", but his presence almost brought down the energy and warmth that Neko brought. For a few of the songs that he didn't sing on he played acoustic guitar, mostly with his back to the audience, and the rest of the time he was off-stage, enough so that he didn't appear when it was his turn to perform, to the point that A.C. Newman had the crowd chanting his name to get his attention, then stumbling on stage with a drink in hand to sing. I don't know if he's so amazingly talented that the band (if not the fans) just tolerate his diva behavior or if he's a different person when not performing, but his antics marred what might have been a perfect set. Still an amazing show, with awesome songs performed impeccably. Looking at it now, it will be difficult for the group to tour without Neko.

It was actually who got the tickets, since I might have skipped the show, knowing I would see them at Lollapalooza just a months later. But we had a good time, even if I wasn't drinking for some reason, probably because I had stuff to do the next day.

The New Pornographers' set-list:
“Sing Me Spanish Techno”

“Up In The Dark”
“Myriad Harbor”
“Use It”
“Crash Years”
“Jackie Dressed In Cobras”
“It's Only Divine Right”
“Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”
“Go Places”
“Your Hands (Together)”
“Execution Day”
“My Rights Versus Yours”
“My Shepherd”
“The Laws Have Changed”
“Silver Jenny Dollar”
“The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”
“The Bleeding Heart Show”

“Electric Version”
“Letter From An Occupant”
“Testament To Youth In Verse”