Earlier this Spring, Canadian indie rock collective The New Pornographers released their brilliant synth-laden seventh studio album Whiteout Conditions. The new album is a continuation of the brisk power-pop sonic foundation and interlaced harmonies that formed the core of the group’s previous album, 2014’s Brill Bruisers. Whiteout Conditions is the first album not to feature drummer Kurt Dahle and singer-songwriter Dan Bejar (who was hard at work on the next Destroyer album). While Dahle and Bejar’s absence is noticeable, it doesn’t weaken the album. New drummer Joe Seiders is able to stamp his own beat on the new songs, and singers A.C. Newman, Neko Case, and Kathryn Calder are free to weave their vocal talents over Newman’s melodic hooks without Bejar’s lyrical and vocal eccentricities. The band have embarked on a US tour in support of the new album. Concert Addicts recently caught the band when they stopped at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh NC.
Tapped with opening the show, Waxahatchee performed as a stripped down duo with singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield accompanied only by a bass player. The sparse arrangements allowed Crutchfield’s, powerful voice and haunting lyrics to take center stage. She opened with “Breathless” from 2015’s Ivy Tripp. The duo would go on to play songs culled from all three Waxahatchee albums as well as providing a preview of a few songs from new album Out in the Storm, due to be released by Merge Records in July.
The stage at the Lincoln Theatre was full as the current New Pornographers lineup consisting of Neko Case on vocals, Kathryn Calder on vocals and keys, Blaine Thurier on keys/synth, John Collins on bass, Todd Fancey on lead guitar, Joe Seiders on drums, and Simi Stone on vocals and violin, surrounded frontman A.C. Newman. The notable exception being Dan Bejar, whose hiatus has extended from the latest album into the subsequent tour. The sizable band kicked off their set with “Play Money” from Whiteout Conditions before dipping into their catalog for a trio of classic tracks that included, “The Laws Have Changed,” “Use It,” and “Moves.” Having existed for over fifteen years, the New Pornographers know how to deliver an electrifying performance. The band quickly settled into an effortless tight groove continuing to mix newer songs like “Colosseums,” and “Whiteout Conditions,” with crowd favorites that included “All the Old Showstoppers,” “Testament to Youth in Verse,” and “Sing Me Spanish Techno.”
Whether it was the bright hook-laden euphoric song structures, the glorious blend of male and female vocals alternating between woven harmonies and strong solo deliveries, the posted request and pre-show announcement that audience members refrain from taking any photos or videos, or some combination of any or all of these things, the crowd remained engaged and focused on the performance throughout. The connection between band and fans was cemented when A.C. Newman and Neko Case addressed the crowd, wondering out loud how it happened that they were playing on the same night that Redd Kross and Shonen Knife were also performing in town. Neko explained that the band had been backstage trying to calculate if it was slightly possible that they might be able to make one of the other shows after their own performance. While lamenting that they and the audience would not be able to catch any of the other bands, someone shouted out “What if we are already seeing our favorite band?” which brought cheers from the crowd and some “Aww shucks” smiles and “thank yous” from the band.
The main set closed out on a massive high with the guitar driven power-pop of “Mass Romantic” that drove the full house to new levels of delirious cheering and roaring approval. With the crowd stomping and calling for more, the band returned for a three song encore that started with “Challengers,” and closed out with “Brill Bruisers,” followed by a full audience sing-along on “The Bleeding Heart Show” that sent everyone on their way in a celebratory mood.
Photos of The New Pornographers + Waxahatchee @ The Lincoln Theatre – May 1st 2017