Concert Review: A.C. Newman at the Grog Shop

(Can't find any video from the Cleveland show, so the above video is from Newman's show in LA. You get the point.)

New Pornographers frontman AC Newman brought his solo show to the Grog Shop Friday night. In fact, it was his first-ever visit to the Coventry institution. "Since February 2001, I've only ever been to the Beachland Ballroom," said Newman during his set in front of about 150 fans. "There was no one there for the first show, and the last one was sold out. I guess that's moving up. I'll just keep telling myself this is too." (Fellow NP member, the red-haired siren Neko Case, will be playing the Allen Theatre in April for her solo show in Cleveland.)

Backed by a five-man band, Newman rolled through most of Get Guilty, his latest solo album, with choice cuts from his 2004 solo debut, The Slow Wonder. The cozy confines of the Grog Shop proved perfect for Newman's patented brand of layered power pop — his voice rang clear and powerful, the horns, keyboards, and violin inhabited distinct but supportive niches, given room to shine at moments, and at others falling into the fold unnoticed.

The result was a strong, tight show. Songs sounded mostly like they do on the albums, a usual characteristic of New Pornographers shows (even if some worried how hist latest studio constructions would play out on stage), but some were distinctly more enjoyable and powerful live. "Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer" soared in its clarity and rhythm; "On the Table" was loud but not muddled; "The Heartbreak Rides" was a beautiful crescendo of the full accompaniment of the band; and it was all started by "There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve," the sweet, complex, and addictive lead-cut from Get Guilty.

(No "Take On Me," however, despite a couple of requests from the crowd. "Where are we? Starbucks?" said Newman. "I'll play it if someone brings me a caramel frappachino," referring to the cover of the A-ha classic he recorded. "I didn't say we wouldn't play anything from Music From the O.C.: Mix 4 though.")

Newman was on his game Saturday night, as usual. Seeing him in these quarters, though — small venue, small crowd — just made it extra special. — Vince Grzegorek

Set List: There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve; Miracle Drug; Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer; Prophets; Secretarial; The Hearbreak Rides; The Cloud Prayer; The Palace at 4 AM; All of My Days and All of My Days Off; Young Atlantis; Drink to Me, Babe, Then; The Collected Works; The Changeling (Get Guilty); Submarines of Stockholm; On the Table; Come Crash; The Town Halo

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