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Gig Review: The New Pornographers @ The HiFi, 13th November

Last night the New Pornographers thrilled a packed HiFi Bar crowd with a n extraordinarily rapid-fire and highly entertaining set that culminated in one of the most unique gig moments I have ever witnessed.

Andrew.

Before that however, it was already one hell of a show. I missed most of the support act, Little Scout, which was unfortunate because from what I did hear they sounded pretty cool. However I was feeling very sick, and was in no mood to spend more time in the city than I needed to. If there was anything that could make me feel better, it was The New Pornographers.

The Canadian collective have been a constant in my favourite artists of the last five years, and their last two albums in particular are pretty much perfect. I was delighted therefore to hear that they would be touring Australia with pretty much a full lineup, sans Dan Bejar . It’s tricky with supergroups like this, because you don’t want an overly crowded stage, but yet you also want the full experience of the band. Thankfully, the New Pornographers found the balance perfectly.

The atmosphere in the crowd was bubbling with energy as all seven band members walked onto the stage, looking supremely relaxed and at home. They wasted no time, breaking into the brilliant opener Play Me Spanish Techno. It was immediately obvious that they have a live sound worthy of their recorded material and extensive backcatalogue. It was just such a lush sound; layered but yet somehow not hectic. This is bouncy, inoffensive pop music at its very finest.

They proceeded to reel off a staggeringly fast-paced set. They must have easily played twenty songs over the duration of the night, with very few breaks. And with so many great songs under their belt, this was a very welcome style for the gig.

I struggle to remember a singular highlight from the main set, because literally every song was great. There are very few bands in the world who can play this many songs live without a single low point, it was just one great track after another.

Twin Cinema, All The Old Showstoppers, Mass Romantic and Use It all provided thoroughly enjoyable flashbacks to older albums, and got the crowd moving on a cold and rainy Melbourne night. The crowd was very respectful during songs, however the eruption of noise that occured at the end of each track demonstrated that everyone was having a great night.

Meanwhile the band, on the rare occasion that they did halt for banter, were utterly charming. “There’s always one city in every country that you know is your favourite and you absolutely love playing at,” said Carl Newman, “And in Australia, you’re it”. Neko Case’s banter was likewise spot on, and all the band members seemed like they were just having a great, relaxed time. Kathryn Calder was of course suitably immaculate on keys (I wonder if anyone at all will get that joke).

If I have one complaint it is that Neko’s vocals were occasionally a bit lost in the mix, which was disappointing, however it seemed that this problem was mostly corrected through fine tuning of the stage sound in the first half of the set.

Naturally the band drew heavily on their latest album, ‘Together’, but it is such a strong record that there was no problem whatsoever in this. Your Hands (Together) was one of the rockier songs of the night that got the whole crowd moving and singing, while Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk was also great.

All in all in was a remarkably well balanced set. Many bands would struggle to put together a satisfactory set with this many songs to choose from, but, by the time The New Pornographers were departing the stage to huge applause, they had played pretty much everything that I wanted.

This being said, one of the few songs I was still waiting on was my personal favourite of The New Pornographers, Challengers. I was delighted therefore when the band returned and played it as the first song of their encore. It was absolutely magic- the song has been one of my all time favourites from the moment I first heard it, and live it was simply spectacular.

“Be safe, you say. Whatever the mess you are, you’re mine, okay?”

At the time I thought Challengers would easily be my favourite song of the set, but what came next eclipsed it completely. Without Dan, Carl asked for volunteers from the audience to sing the lead vocals for Myriad Harbour. At first everyone thought he was joking, but after he had played the two chord progression from the start of the song for a few minutes while looking expectantly out into the crowd, people slowly started to realise he was being serious.

It was a big ask for anyone to do, and it took a while until gradually a solitary figure emerged from the back of the venue and the crowd parted to let him through to the stage, cheering loudly. It was Andrew. He looked understandably nervous, and it was obvious that both the band and the crowd were thinking that this could go very badly.

Andrew stood in front the main mic as Carl moved to one side of him, and the band began playing Myriad Harbour. From the moment Andrew confidently sung those first lines, with a surprisingly decent voice, the HiFi just went nuts. It was the most energetic the crowd had been all night, and every line that Andrew got right was greeted with huge applause.

He gradually got into the spirit of the moment more and more, and, despite a few hiccups, did an absolutely awesome job. What a champ. I actually really enjoyed the rendition of the song. As a deafening sound rose from the crowd at the end of the song, Carl, Neko and Andrew took a bow as Carl announced “That’s the end. That was our closer”. It was a truly special and entertaining moment when Andrew left the stage, complete with two drumsticks, to the sound of a thousand people chanting his name.

Before beginning, Andrew had requested that someone film the song and upload it to Youtube, and a lot of people listened. Here’s proof of the awesomeness:

How many bands in the world would even dream of doing something like that? But The New Pornographers did it with ease, and it worked beautifully to create and utterly unique moment that one person in particular will probably never forget.

Despite the pronounced end to the show, The New Pornographers appeared for one last song, The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism, which was bouncy pop heaven. The show had been undeniably stolen by Andrew, however: as Neko said, “I think he got more applause than we have the whole night”.

This being said, The New Pornographers were perfect. They played such a well balanced set, full of so many great songs from their five exceptional albums. They were very relaxed, but there was just such a natural chemistry between the band that it was impossible not to get carried away in the fun of the show.

Gigs don’t come much more satisfying, unique, memorable, and enjoyable than this.

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6 Responses to “Gig Review: The New Pornographers @ The HiFi, 13th November”

  1. This was pretty much my wildest dream come true and an absolute highlight of my life. So glad I got up the guts to do it! Thanks for the brilliant review :)

  2. Sounds like a great gig! The New Pornographers have been on tour (W/short breaks) for close to 10 MONTHS now. I’m pretty sure they’ve got th’routine down! Man, I wisht I wuz there!

  3. Andrew, I’ve seen this kind of thing go badly and embarrassngly for all concerned so many times.
    You nailed it. It was a great great gig moment and I think that the band enjoyed it as well. How can a band sustain being this great? They are gods.
    Good on you for getting up there!

  4. For those interested there is a good quality bootleg of the whole show available here: http://fanmaderecordings.blogspot.com/2010/11/new-pornographers-hi-fi-bar-and.html

  5. I’ve seen a few of the Vids now of Andrews performance. Great stuff and I’m sure it’s a moment you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.

    Great review also – I caught the Adelaide show which was awesome

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