The New Pornographers Deliver Crowd-pleasing Set at House of Blues

Concert Review

Fourteen years ago, a New Pornographers concert wouldn’t have attracted too many fans from the NPR-listening crowd and definitely wouldn’t have filled out Cleveland’s House of Blues. Six spectacularly tight full length albums later, the “kids who go to shows” that the band sung about on its 2000 debut Mass Romantic are more like the “well-dressed-thirty-somethings-in-sensible-shoes.” But that did little to negate the overall live power of the gracefully aging Canucks. Last night, they proved their ability to pack one of the city’s largest venues for a two-encore blast through their “greatest hits.”

And what does it mean to be one of the New Pornographers’ greatest hits? The band has never had a traditional chart-topping single, but it has generated some of the most “intimate anthem” worthy tracks over the past decade and a half – just ask any Millennial about the first time he or she heard the tear-jerker “Adventures In Solitude” or the oddly optimistic “All For Swinging You Around.” Just ask the guy who continually, drunkenly demanded that the band play “Letter From an Occupant” all night long. The band touched on some of the most infectious cuts from its discography, creating a sort of “please everybody” master list of their tunes. They banged out the most obvious-you-better-play-these set list choices (“Dancehall Domine,” “Twin Cinema”) and deeper album cuts (“Jackie,” “Miss Teen Word Power,”) with equal ripped-off-the-album-preciseness. There’s something to be said for each of the band’s albums, and at least a handful of gems exists on each one. And what can be possibly framed as being negative about a giant roomful of people grooving to a song about “Jackie dressed in cobras?”

Although front man A.C. Newman and front lady Neko Case have both proved their wit in interviews, the duo put stage banter on the backburner for the night, instead choosing to pack the show with as many songs as possible. “Testament to Youth in Verse” and “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” gave the band opportunities to showcase its ability to masterfully blend pop vocals over gorgeously assembled tapestries of shiny pop chord progressions while rockers “Use It” and “Mass Romantic” just hit home the band’s specialty: loud, brainy music. The band reappeared for two encores, sending fans home with achingly perfect deliveries of “The Bleeding Heart Show” and “Challengers.” When the Pornographers left the stage last night, they left a concert-hall full of satisfied fans in their wake, even without touching “Letter from an Occupant.”       
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