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The New Pornographers – [Live]

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Sunday, 30 September 2007

Carl Newman must have a subscription to US Weekly. His between-song banter during the New Pornographers show consisted mainly of naming off random celebs he claimed to have seen in the halls of the band's hotel, at the coffee shop, on the street. Assuming he could see out into the crowd during the first night of a two-night stand at the Henry Fonda, he would have seen more.

For a tour in support of the band's latest album Challengers, the setlist was pretty evenly mixed, touching on all four albums and fairly distributed between the three lead singers. No substitutes this time around—Newman and Neko Case anchored the stage, while Dan Bejar wandered off and on, depending on whether or not his vocal services were needed. To be honest, I've always enjoyed Bejar's contributions to the band's canon the least—his voice and my ears don't quite get along, and he can be lyrically obtuse, especially when compared to the clever and catchy turns of a phrase that Newman produces—so his inability to stay put and contribute when he wasn't a focal point irked me for quite a while. I will admit, however, that the Bejar-fronted “Myriad Harbor” is one of the standout songs on Challengers, and live it was even better.

With a brilliant white New Pornographers sign behind them and a comfortably-packed crowd at their feet, the band kicked off with “All Of The Things That Go To Make Heaven and Earth” before moving into Twin Cinema's “Use It” and then Bejar's first appearance for the aforementioned “Myriad Harbor.” Neko Case clutched a tambourine throughout the show and let Newman take on most of the hamming during the breaks. He mentioned Miss J. from America's Next Top Model, “Ethan” from Lost—“that guy loves life” Newman said—“Mohinder Suresh” from Heroes and “that girl from Brett Michael's Rock of Love.” Case would roll her eyes, and the band would launch into another song. “Mass Romantic” was a highlight of the evening, as was “Jackie Dressed in Cobras.”

Apart from the pop culture references, it was the crowd that provided the most entertainment, whether it was the guy in the vest and headband hanging out with Alicia Silverstone or the couple that awkwardly danced and heavily made out during slow songs like “Entering White Cecilia” and “Testament to Youth in Verse.”

Big recognition has to go out to the Fonda's sound guy, who consistently keeps bands sounding top notch, when other shows I've hit recently fell flat. Granted, with voices like Neko Case's it's hard to mess things up, but the entire show was crisp and clean, and as the crowd filed out into the L.A. Night, you could hear the “Awesome” and “Rad” floating in the air.

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