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New Pornographers @ Kool Haus — No Neko, But It’s Okay

Thursday, October 12, 2006
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Guess who went to The New Pornographers show last night (Oct 11) — for free! (Thanks Frenchie — you kick ass).

There were a few concerns heading into this one, though; firstly, it was at Kool Haus, which is notorious for poor sound (so much so that I know people who simply refuse to see shows there). Secondly, Neko Case was not going to be there. I wondered how this was going to play out; would such Pornos standards as Mass Romantic, All For Swinging You Around and Letter From An Occupant be struck off the playlist? Would we hear all of Twin Cinema without Bones Of An Idol and These Are The Fables? I was concerned.

If I had of been paying more attention through the media, I would have known what was going to happen. As it turns out I had nothing to worry about — I was pleasantly surprised.

Although it only became pleasant once the Pornos finally hit the stage (at 10:30 on the dot, I might add — I love it when a band is on time). The opening acts were torture. Usually I’m pretty game for the opening band(s), willing to let them pull me in if they play a good set; last night I was so bored I just sat over on the vinyl couches in the bar area with my earplugs in, checking the time every five minutes, willing them with all my mental might to get off the stage.

First up came The Bicycles, a sort of ’50s pop throwback band, who, no fault to them, were only given 15 minutes, and could only do three songs. Needless to say, they couldn’t really get into any sort of rhythm and before I could even start to make up my mind about them there were gone. Next up came Novillero, who have been getting good hype, but sounded like any other generic rock band you might catch opening for somebody on a Wednesday night in October. Nothing stood out.

By this point I was merely bored — but the next band was so bad it actually made me angry. Immaculate Machine are a three-piece from Victoria. Their sound is Up To Here era Tragically Hip, with the vocal stylings of lead singer Kathryn Calder reminiscent of Touch era Sarah McLachlan. Which is fine, if you’re making this music in 1989 when those two albums came out, but why anybody is still doing it in 2006 is beyond me. They sounded so dated it was pathetic, and I really don’t understand how they’re releasing albums and touring with the Pornos.

Finally, finally the big moment arrived. After an overlong and groan-inducing intro by CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence, they popped up on stage with the cheerful energy of little kids in a grade-school play, launched into Sing Me Spanish Techno and barely paused for the next hour. It was an excellent, excellent show. Frontman A.C. Newman was (mostly) right on top of every song — he missed a few high notes here and there; drummer Kurt Dahle was having a blast, frequently tossing and flipping his sticks around and losing them mid-song in the curtain behind him (it was hilarious to see him scramble to grab a new one and still play — and he never missed a beat); bassist John Collins pulled of a great Will Ferrell impression simply by standing there (the dude looks exactly like him, it’s hilarious — I kept expecting him to fall over or something).

The fears about the sound were completely unfounded as well — it was immaculate. Everything — every single instrument and vocal was crystal clear and perfectly balanced. I can’t even remember the last time I went to an indoor show that sounded that good. Either we were all wrong about Kool Haus, or the Pornos just have great engineers. The surprise I alluded to earlier was Calder from the Immaculate Machines joining them on stage at keyboards and vocals (this is what I should have known about — she’s listed on Wikipedia as an official band member). She sounded great in those first few songs doing backup for Newman, and I figured that would be the extent of her work. Then suddenly, four or five songs into the set, came the familiar washboard-guitar opening riff of Mass Romantic and there was Calder singing the lead . . . and doing a mighty fine job.

You can’t ever replace Neko Case, obviously; Calder’s voice doesn’t have the same sort of edge to it, but overall she was a more than decent stand-in. It made me realize how there’s really too much focus on Case in terms of her spot in the Pornos; for all intents and purposes, she’s really only the back-up vocalist, who happens to front two songs per album. It’s the fact that those two songs end up usually being the singles which make her really stand out.

But really this is Newman’s band and he was the deserved focal point last night. He even took audience requests for the encore. Everyone went home happy.

I tried to find pictures from the show on Flickr but nobody’s posted anything yet. I’ll throw some up once I find them.

No rest for me — I’m back at Kool Haus again tonight for the DJ Shadow show. I’ll let you know how that one goes tomorrow.03971semaj

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Frenchie permalink
    Thursday, October 12, 2006 2:17 pm

    You’re right, I do rock!

  2. James17930 permalink
    Thursday, October 12, 2006 3:36 pm

    I said you ‘kick ass.’

    But I suppose you rock as well.

    Go you.

  3. Pink Slip permalink
    Wednesday, October 18, 2006 12:38 pm

    These guys are pretty sweet. One of my favorites!

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