A road trip to Richmond may seem like a long way to go just to see a band, but when it’s The New Pornographers, you know the show will be worth the drive. The group brought their distinctive power pop riffs and vocal harmonies to The National this past Saturday on their second leg of US touring for their latest album, Brill Bruisers. Like their shows in DC back in November, their lengthy 23-song setlist leaned heavily on tracks from the new release, but also featured several pulled from each of their earlier albums.
Anyone who has seen The New Pornographers before knows how the shows go, and perhaps marvels that something that could so easily erupt into chaos, given so many members with such strong personalities, comes together so well every time. A.C. Newman takes center stage with his vocals and guitar as the anchor of the band, but this is a group where every member has a vital role to play. Dan Bejar wanders on and off of the stage, singing for a song and then disappearing again as if he were never there. Kathryn Calder ably picks up her own lead vocals along with many of the vocal harmonies, and manages to also fill in for Neko Case, who was unable to join the band on this leg of the tour. John Collins on bass, Todd Fancey on guitar, Blaine Thurier on keyboards, and Joe Seiders on drums round out the group, providing the musical backbone that holds it all together.
It’s difficult to pick out highlights in a show in which all of the tracks are great, a testament to the consistent strength of The New Pornographers’ catalog. New tracks such as “Brill Bruisers” and “War On the East Coast” blended in seamlessly with older material such as “Myriad Harbor” and “The Laws Have Changed,” bringing freshness to the band’s familiar sound without straying too far off the path. By this point, the audience has had plenty of time to become familiar with the new album (released six months earlier), and so showed equal excitement for both the newer material and the more well-known. By the closing “hey-la”s of “The Bleeding Heart Show,” everyone in the room was left satisfied at seeing a band at their peak.
Due to last minute issues – Operators were scheduled to play the tour, but had to pull out due to visa issues – the show was opened by Jaill, a garage rock quartet with from Milwaukee whose most recent album, Traps, was released on SubPop in 2012.
All photos by Matt Condon. Click to embiggen.