Review: The New Pornographers – Orpheum, Madison

By Tyler Fassnacht

The last time the New Pornographers came to town was about two years ago, supporting their album Challengers. This time around, with their solid new album Together, the band yet again came to the Orpheum Theatre, but the shows were actually quite different: this time they were much better.

Opening the evening was San Francisco group the Dodos. The three members on stage (one more than at the last time they played Madison on the Terrace) played guitar, vibraphone and percussion respectively. A problem I would say about this band is that it seems they have a difficult time fleshing out their songs to sound as full as they do on record. Having said this, they still put on a hell of a show. As one of the more technically impressive folk acts, the Dodos guitar player/singer Meric Long fingerpicks at intense speeds with astounding rhythmic precision, but also can strum acoustic-pop songs, which kind of leads to my other complaint. Being a fan of the Dodos in their own right, I have listened to their catalog and I know the variety of sounds and song structure that they use, which the band didn’t showcase all that well; they mostly played a lot of songs that sounded very similar and safe, but I guess that comes with being the opener.

After some setup, the New Pornographers came out to an intro song (Boston’s Foreplay) and immediately jumped into “Sing Me Spanish Techno” off Twin Cinema“>Twin Cinema. A big reason the show this time around was better was visually apparent as soon as the band hit the stage: the inclusion of the fiery redhead vocal powerhouse Neko Case and the wonderfully quirky Dan Bejar, both of who were absent the last time. Things felt more comfortable and accessible with all the members there, the way seeing old friends at a party makes it that much more fun. Case’s sense of humor contributed greatly with the amusing banter of front man Carl Newman and Bejar kept his reputation by only coming on stage to play on his songs, leaving when he finished. The band also sounded tight and full with the inclusion of a cello/saxophone player rounding out the nine-person group, each adding to the music in their own way. In terms of song choice, a New Pornographers fan could not be happier. Each album was represented fairly well, splitting the set list evenly across their five albums with great renditions of “Use It,” “The Slow Descent into Alcoholism,” and “Myriad Harbour,” among many others. The band delivered with thick guitar chords, layers of vocal harmonies, poppy hooks and big choruses to a diverse audience of everyone from high school students to past middle age, adults (I guess everyone loves the New Pornographers). The banded ended the night with a short encore that included aid from two members of the Dodos and graciously left the stage, a suitable ending for an awesome rock show and performance.

Discuss: Did you attend last night’s show? What did you think? Drop a comment with your thoughts and reviews of the show.

Buy: The New Pornographers – Together
MP3: The New Pornagraphers – “Your Hands (Together)”

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