Jimmy Swaggart once declared music to be “the new pornography”. I immediately declared Jimmy Swaggart to be a flaming idiot, but Carl Newman’s a little more understanding than that, so he just swiped the subtext of the soundbite and formed his side-project band.
And so, last night Mike and I polished off our beers and walked down to The Phoenix to catch the result, the New Pornographers. Through the gay village and past the crack park, to Grandmother’s house we went, with visions of Neko Case dancing in our heads. We arrived in time to catch The Organ; I thought they sounded like The Cure done badly, and I fucking hate The Cure. I’m sure there were some shoegazer girls in the crowd digging on it, but they put me right to sleep.
At 11:00 (punctual…I like it) the New Pornographers took the stage and proceeded to sound the alarm on my little Organ-inspired nap. They rocked. I always like a new CD more after I hear it in concert. Even “Testament to Youth in Verse”, a song I normally have no time for, seemed to work live, especially the little wanky singalong at the end. It amazed me to really think about how complex Carl Newman’s songs are…even in semi-radio-friendly songs like “Letter From An Occupant” or “All For Swinging You Around”, the song shifts themes three or four times. Neko Case…what can I say? She’s incredibly talented (though you don’t see much of that talent in this setting), she’s got the most distinctive voice this side of Tom Waits, she’s hotter than all get out and she really makes this band. Carl Newman is the brains, but Neko’s the pretty face (figuratively speaking)…the flash, the part that grabs the eye and sets the ear to itching. Blaine Thurier, on the other hand, is hilarious. He hasn’t a shred of musical talent (only being admitted to the band ’cause he’s Carl Newman’s friend…he’s a filmmaker for chrissakes!), he’s about as tall as my cat and the way he dances suggests he’s on strings. Honestly, I think they put him there to occasionally take everyone’s eyes off of Neko.
They played about 20 songs in total, pretty much all of Electric Version and most of Mass Romantic, and threw in a cover (which, sadly, I didn’t recognize, nor am I able to remember the words this morning, but given their history it was probably The Kinks) to close the encore. I think they actually came back out for another encore as we were leaving, but I left happy. They’d played every song I wanted to hear and more. Good concert. Well done. And so, in closing, Neko Neko Neko Neko Neko Neko Neko. Neko Neko. Neko Neko Neko Neko. Neko, everybody. Neko.