The New Pornographers @ Commodore -- 10/04/14

Fresh off the release of their sixth album Brill Bruisers, The New Pornographers kicked off their tour with a pair of hometown shows at the Commodore Ballroom.
I caught the second of the two, but for some reason, I was not as excited as I should have been. Maybe it was the recent news that Kurt Dahle (one of my favourite drummers) had left the band. Or maybe it was the lack of the promised Neko Case who, due to issues at the border, was not able to get into the country.
But I was intrigued by the announcement that Amber Webber, of Black Mountain and Lightning Dust, would be filling in, and excluding free outdoor shows, it was the first time seeing the band in a proper venue in over four years.

Unfortunately I missed the first two bands, Cool TV and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, getting to the venue just as The New Pornographers hit the stage with the first song, and title track, "Brill Bruisers" and as soon as Dan Bejar joined them for one of my favourites, "Myriad Harbour", a lot of my misgivings had faded. The set dug heavily into their back catalogue, with lots of deep cuts throughout the night, showing off the bands 14 years of crafting some of the best power pop songs out there, from "Champions of Red Wine" all the way back to "Execution Day" off their debut album.

Frontman Carl Newman occasionally chatted with the crowd a few times, joking that in revisiting some of the older songs he found some were "pretty good" -- specifically "The New Face of Zero and One" -- and looked happy to be home, asking if anyone else went to school in White Rock. Bejar was on and off stage, joining only when he was needed, as he usually does, and while the absence of Neko Case was felt, Kathryn Calder unsurprisingly stepped in with her own fantastic voice. Guest Amber Webber was mostly on backup and harmonies, and there were only a couple times that her voice really soaring above the rest, the best example being "Born With a Sound", which featured her on the album. I actually ended up wishing they utilized her more; I would have loved to see how her haunting voice fit with songs like "Challengers" or even "Letter From An Occupant", neither of which ended up in the set.

After over an hour, they ended the main set with my two favourites from the new album, Dan Bejar's frantic "War on the East Coast", and the impressive vocals of Calder shining on "Dancehall Domine" before thy were back out for a few more. Bejar returned one last time for "Spyder", before they went all the way back and wrapped up with the with the first song, and title track to their debut, "Mass Romantic", a nearly perfect song, with Calder once again filling the room with her powerful pipes.

In the end, it was definitely a good show. There was too much raw talent on stage for it not to be, but something about it just felt... off. I have seen the band perform without Case a few times, and I think it all came down to the new drummer. He was a fine drummer, don't get me wrong, but the absence of Kurt Dahle left some pretty big kickdrums to fill.

Brill Bruisers; Myriad Harbour; Sing Me Spanish Techno; Born With a Sound; The End of Medicine; Twin Cinema; Execution Day; All The Old Showstoppers; The Moves; Silver Jenny Dollar; You Tell Me Where; The Spirit of Giving; The New Face of Zero and One; Champions Of Red Wine; Ballad of a Comeback Kid; Backstairs; Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk; War on the East Coast; Dancehall Domine.
(encore) Spyder; The Laws Have Changed; Mass Romantic.