Canadian indie rock supergroup the New Pornographers played the Noise Pop show at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday night, and despite a recent lineup change and being one key member short, they delivered the same, dependable hour and a half of hook-y, harmonizing, driving rock music that they’ve been peddling for 15 years now.
Until recently, the New Pornographers had one of the most stable lineups in rock since they started in 1999, with the addition of keyboardist/vocalist Kathryn Calder in 2005 being the only change. In September, shortly after the release of the New Porno’s sixth record, Brill Bruisers, drummer Kurt Dahle left the band. And while vocalist Neko Case has toured pretty consistently with the NPs, she’s been missing from the most recent dates, to the disappointment of many (if the grumbling of attendees in the men’s room can be viewed as reliable cross section of the crowd).
Luckily, though the lack of Case is never a good thing, it does mean that Calder gets to showcase her vocal talents more. Her original role in the band was sort of a fill-in for Case, who’s solo career often meant she couldn’t tour with the New Pornographers. But since joining the band, she’s taken lead vocals at times, and often shared them with Case, and she’s fit in seamlessly. While she has her own distinct voice, Calder can definitely resemble an extremely Neko Case-like substance when she wants to be. Indeed, if you were closing your eyes during the show, you’d be hard pressed to really notice Case’s absence.
With Case missing, that also seemed to mean more songs for Dan Bejar, who’s songs comprised seven of the 23 tunes on the set list. As usual, Bejar (who records his solo albums as Destroyer), came out, sung his songs, took a bow, and jogged off stage. Maybe his best New Pornos song, “Ballad of Comeback Kid” kicked off the three-song encore, which concluded with a pair of hits from Twin Cinema, “Sing Me Spanish Techno” and “The Bleeding Heart Show.”
After 15 years, it’s easy to take Carl Newman’s stewardship of the New Pornographers for granted (for example, despite being the leader/main songwriter, he’s not even mentioned until the 5th paragraph of this review). He’s still one of the best rock/pop songwriters out there, and it’s a little amazing how consistent his output has been, especially since he’s put out three great solo albums in addition to the six New Pornographers records.
The show was opened by a somewhat somber set by Nick Diamonds (of Islands/The Unicorns), and ambient R&B group How To Dress Well, who’s singer Tom Krell celebrated the occasion by wearing his best pair of white mesh shorts.
Check out the setlist and gallery below…
New Pornographers @ Fox Theater, Oakland, CA, 02.28.15
The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism
War On the East Coast
Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
Another Drug Deal of the Heart
The Laws Have Changed
You Tell Me Where
Testament to Youth in Verse
All the Old Showstoppers
Adventures in Solitude
Silver Jenny Dollar
Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
Champions of Red Wine
Born With a Sound
Ballad of a Comeback Kid
Sing Me Spanish Techno
The Bleeding Heart Show