Dispatches from the Show – TNP
November 12, 2019
The New Pornographers @ the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.
The second leg of The New Pornographer’s tour kicks off tomorrow in Seattle at Neumos.
Credit—photographer unknown to me. Contact me if this is your photo to receive proper credit. Sidebar—I can see myself in this pic. 😃
I was there. Right THERE… at the stage.
Because—where else would I be?
On that particular night, I would have settled for any space within the walls of the 9:30 Club. Fortunately for me though, the stage goddess was with me as she waved her generous hand to sanction and bestow upon me—the best seat in the house.
Always, in this setting, I yearn to connect directly with the music, to be as close as I can be to the sound, and to live to be alive in the music, in that moment. Also, gurl, I love to move. “Reserve that grounding shit for therapy sessions and sleep,” I say. “Live shows are for werkin’ girls.”
Let the music take you and move you to dance.
Undoubtedly, I crave the energy and joie de vivre of frontline action. And this statement rings especially true when applied to my favorite contemporary band.
If you’re looking for pop precision that is emphasized by a sashaying concord of “ohs and ahs” or you find yourself longing for a grandiloquence of poetic genius to replenish and nourish your hyper-analytical soul, then look no further than The New Pornographers.
On many occasions I have said that Carl Newman and Neko Case are the best songwriters of our time, because THEY ARE. As evidenced by their lyrics, they are readers, analyzers, observers, thinkers (which isn’t necessarily an intuitive human characteristic—see GOP and current White House administration) and with those thoughts, they were gifted the collective ability to wax magical-lyrical, and those wax words drip down into a pool of profundity, meaning, and substance to create a solid live show candle that burns at both ends.
Truly, the individual components that work to form the NewPo tribe are crank, dope, and full-volume RIGHT-ON, and their live show is a detailed, vivid demonstration of their combined talent.
In the tidal ebbs of their sacrificial flows, it’s easy to perceive that these folks know each other well, and they seem to even like each other, which creates a pleasant vibe for the audience experience. In my observation, not one ego dominated over the other, which told me that they’re probably a pretty down to earth and relatable crew. They at least present a semblance of compassion toward each other, which more than likely permeates into a broader sense of compassion. There was no ego boxing on that stage, and we all know, band dynamics can sway that way. Instead, what I witnessed was a proportionate supergroup collaboration of complimentarily capable musicians.
Clever interactions and reverbing wit–and appreciation for their fans was the icing on their already impeccable, delectable performance. (Cake references and comparisons be embraced—because, you know, clearly this band was hungry, and I’m always hungry for cake.) I don’t know if they ate the infamous 9:30 cupcakes, but they appeared to have a strong follow-up hankerin’ for forfeited flesh. There was a running mention throughout the show of human sacrifice, undoubtedly, for the betterment of us all, which somehow evolved into a climax regarding the consumption of a whole human at the end of the show. Neko promised to wait until the sacrificial person of choice/stage goat/martyr-teer was ripe and had eaten themselves into a “human haggis.” I believe that’s as plump and ready as one can get. Otherwise, everyone else was expected to be at the show the following night at The Lincoln Theater, which is a lovely venue. And I would have been there too if I had unlimited amounts of funds and time. I am a bit heartbroken that I missed “Letter from an Occupant” (played in that second show) since it was my first TNP love.
Between their clever banter, the female member’s engaged in calisthenics and laughs.
Alas, these folks are funny, and they know how to have fun.
On “The Laws Have Changed”—we were pulled back into our grim political reality, which is hard to overlook or forget these days when Trump douses truth with lies and continues to pollute our political landscape with toxins on the daily (hourly, minutely—depends on his mood and he is one moody mo’—“triggered” as his son so delicately puts it). Anyway, I am happy to have the wherewithal to acknowledge the stink of the propaganda sludge he and his FOX cohorts patent and sell as patriotism. He’s a phony baloney man with fat, dollar sign eyes and guts plump with greed. Everything (God, woman, America—ALL) is for sale and for profit. If it benefits his pocket, all the better, and it ALWAYS will.
He only plays for money, honey.
A solid band should balance the scales and exist as one beating, singing heart. That's The New Pornographers. Carl is the designated leader, but the truth is, this band is balanced and has their shit TOGETHER. If anything, Newman proves a conduit for their collective talents. Their act is polished with the shine that can only come from years of performing together. And with that glow, I learned to appreciate the understated Kathryn Calder even more. Sincerely, “Adventures in Solitude” was THE HIGHLIGHT of my night, as it revealed Kathryn Calder’s caliber. That girl has vocal aptitude aplenty.
Nearing an end, I posit the ultimate live experience question—Do they sound like their albums?
They sound better.
Concluding thoughts on that night—the music, the movement, the moment—members of the The New Pornographers offered an evening of sheer enchantment and dance. They connected their guitar strings to our vein strings and showed us around.
The New Pornographers forbade photography of any sort (signs outside were posted encouraging us—to be in the moment with them). And I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more.
Present. Mindful. In the moment. Just as the Universe intended any concert experience to be.
A Final Reflect
I can clearly and colorfully recall the first time I heard Neko Case’s voice.
Everything in my world was black and white before her. She glided to me, a glorious good witch in a magic reflective orb (a CD sample from an established music monthly), and belted the peppy parchment spell that would be my first The New Pornographer’s experience (yes, I’ve been with them all along)—“Letter from an Occupant.”
From that time, for miles and miles, The New Pornographers have ridden passenger side and championed me to unexpected celebrations, over impossible mountains and through barbed breakdowns—all preparing me for this show.
For “The Bleeding Heart Show,” A.C. Newman creates the audition and arranges the props on a renowned play.
And the curtain opens.
Enter a couple—opposite sides of the stage, approaching each other. They pass through mistakes in beds and leave those beds unmade behind them until they meet at a new, smooth covered mattress, scripted as their collision point. They love. They meld. They break. Very quickly springs bend, coils poke through, and their bodies separate and cling to edges. Winter erupts, and the room becomes too cold for the thin, raggedy cover they have to share. The chill is knocked by resentful screams and a haze of heated breath fills their space melting whatever remained of sympathy and understanding.
I feel the temper and change when I listen to the build and burn conveyed in this song, especially when there’s a shift in vocals starting with an understated male dominated lead (Newman), which swells into interspersed midsections of immaculate harmonizing and drum-blasts into a female conducted end (Case).
“And we have arrived… ” energy spent, in THE BEST WAY, to…
the end of one heck-of-a “HEY-NA” night.
On Stage – The New Pornographers are:
A.C. Newman – vocals, guitar
Neko Case – vocals
John Collins – bass
Blaine Thurier – keyboards, synthesizer
Todd Fancey – lead guitar
Kathryn Calder – vocals, keyboards, guitar
Joe Seiders – drums, vocals
Simi Stone - violin, vocals
Swinging on a Star (Recording)
Falling Down the Stairs of Your Smile
Sing Me Spanish Techno
You’ll Need a New Backseat Driver
My Rights Versus Yours
The Surprise Knock
One Kind of Solomon
Testament to Youth In Verse
The Laws Have Changed
Leather on the Seat
Champions of Red Wine
Adventures in Solitude
Colossus of Rhodes
The Bleeding Heart Show
High Ticket Attractions