Sunday night’s performance marked 20 years “and a few days” since the release of The New Pornographers’ second album Electric Version. A gentle reminder that it’s been over two decades since this indie supergroup led by Carl (AC) Newman first came into being and still continues to evolve.
I recently listened to a Sirius XMU interview with Newman where he talked about hand-picking Wild Pink as a tour opener, which piqued my interest. Wild Pink lead singer/guitarist Jon Ross writes all the songs and it is clearly his project. You can hear strains of Ben Gibbard to bands like Deer Tick and even Newman himself in the jangly guitar choruses skillfully blended with pop accents. The set was heavy on the latest 2022 album ILYSM, with the soaring title track, “See You Better Now” and “Hold My Hand”, which was originally recorded as a duet with boygenius’ Julien Baker. Her vocals add a nuanced vulnerability to the track that couldn’t be replicated, but it was still a highlight of their set.
It was a treat to see The New Pornographers in their full form, as Neko Case hasn’t always gone on the road with the band. The prolific singer/songwriter has often had to juggle her solo career and other numerous projects over the years, while still contributing to all The New Pornographers albums. Case took center stage with Newman, flanked by vocalist/keyboardist Kathryn Calder and new member, saxophonist Zach Djakikian. 2023’s Continue As Guest is the first album featuring Djakikian and for the live show he brought horn and additional keyboard flourishes to the seven-piece band on songs like the new “Marie and the Undersea” and bouncy “Dancehall Domine” from Brill Bruisers.
Around the mid-point of the show, Carl Newman declared an unofficial 20th anniversary commemoration for Electric Version before launching into “The Laws Have Changed”. The brit-pop tinged “July Jones” from the same album also made a rare, welcome appearance.
The New Pornographers and Wild Pink at Wall Street Theater – May 14, 2023
“Champions of Red Wine” featuring Neko on lead vocals surged with all the upbeat energy and melodic deftness that only this collective of artists can deliver. “Pontius Pilate’s Home Movies” from Continue As Guest followed with some of Newman’s sharpest lyrics layered upon Case & Calder’s perfectly matched harmonic vocal chorus, Djakikian’s sax and the heart of the band’s driving rhythm.
With a well-balanced 24-song setlist, the show should have pleased fans of The New Pornographers from every stage of their career. My only request would have been “Sing Me Spanish Techno”…
All Photos: Deb Johnsen