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New Pornographers at the Vogue Theatre

The New Pornographers at the Vogue, July 14 2010. Jade Dempsey photo

The New Pornographers at the Vogue, July 14 2010. Jade Dempsey photo

Review and photos – New Pornographers at the Vogue July 14 2010

– text by Ria Nevada/photos by Jade Dempsey

Neko Case was a no-show at last night’s New Pornographers Vancouver concert at the Vogue Theatre. But the singer’s absence – she was apparently delayed in Vermont – didn’t stop Vancouverites from throwing their support and enthusiasm behind the hometown band. (The New Pornographers have a second Vogue Theatre show scheduled for tonight, July 15.)

While half of the ticket-holders opted to stick to the patios and soak in some precious sunlight before the main act, Imaad Wasif and his supporting band members took to the stage for a few wistful, retro-rock numbers such as “The Hand of the Imposter”.

Wasif’s delicate voice, spidery frame and graceful maneuvers projected the dreamy aura of his compositions. Moreover, the gliding notes from Greg Burns’ steele guitar and Adam Garcia’s impassioned drumming corresponded with the laid-back vibe in the darkened room. Other songs like “Murmur, Live On, May We all” rapidly switched from a restrained exposition to a crushing, metal climax, similar to tracks like “Inertiatic” from the Mars Volta.

After Wasif and his cohorts made their exit, the stage was quickly re-arranged for the Dodos, a three-piece indie-folk set from San Francisco. Their distinctive choice of instruments and atypical musical techniques has earned them considerable street cred since their inception in 2005.

Logan Kroeber‘s tribal-drum thrashing on a collection of floor toms and a foot-controlled tambourine eliminates the need for a bass drum and a hi-hat. The drummer’s intricate rhythmic patterns on the speedy number “Jodi” matched frontman Meric Long’s vigorous guitar-playing; this tune in particular had the whole group sweating bullets.

The Dodos at the Vogue, July 14 2010. Jade Dempsey photo

The Dodos at the Vogue, July 14 2010. Jade Dempsey photo

Keaton Snyder adds a unique touch to the group with additional percussion and the echoing tones from his vibraphone. At one point, he played the latter instrument with two violin bows, allowing a spectrum of harmonics to linger in every nook and cranny of the vintage theatre. The gutsy trio enveloped the entire crowd with their uniquely crafted sound. While this did not compel anyone to leave their seats to dance, I noticed nods of approval and awed expressions on faces in the audience.

The Vogue finally reached capacity in the five minutes leading up to the New Pornographers’ appearance. As the production crew tiled the stage floor with setlists, the frequency of the audience’s whoops and whistles greatly increased.

A kitschy techno light show introduced all eight members before they proceeded into the head-bopping tune “Sing Me Spanish Techno”. They followed with “What Turns Up in the Dark”, an earthy new wave track from the latest New Pornographers record, Together.

As the album title indicates, the band continues to be a well-oiled, synchronized unit. On vocals and rhythm guitar, A.C. Newman remains at the helm of the project. Pausing for a moment in between songs, he made sure to comment on the fresh gust of potent pot in the air, declaring, “I’m home. Smells like primo homegrown”.

The whole group showed obvious delight when the docile crowd rushed to the stage for the bouncy “Myriad Harbour”, which showcased the unpredictable Dan Bejar on lead vocals. Newman, keyboardist Kathryn Calder and drummer Kurt Dahle chimed in with seamless four-part harmonies. Missing from the ensemble was Case but, despite the big-voiced singer’s absence, the quartet still managed to create billowing, chamber-style vocals for “Adventures in Solitude” and “Execution Day”.

The New Pornographers continued to shower fans with upbeat songs from their vault such as “To Wild Homes” and “All the Old Showstoppers”. Throughout the hour-and-a-half-long set, Bejar drifted on- and off-stage, always returning with an extra beer at hand for one of his friends.

While the New Pornographers delivered a more than generous serving of their repertoire, by the last quarter of the show, their songs started to sound like more of the same, losing the attention of a small fraction of the audience. But all eyes and ears returned to the indie legends as they ended the night with the playful and quirky “Testament To Youth In Reverse”, which had Bejar and Calder giddily singing “The bells ring no, no, no,no” while fans heartily clapped along up to the very last note of the night.

More photos of The New Pornographers at the Vogue Theatre:

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