All The Old Showstoppers

The New Pornographers, with Okkervil River
Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, TN
Friday, April 18, 2008

The New Pornographers may have been minus a bit of their star power Friday night, but they still had plenty of shine. With Neko Case having to bail out of the tour due to a fractured ankle, keyboardist Kathryn Calder became their most valuable player. She may not have as distinctive a voice as Case, but she handled the lead vocals on Neko-centric tunes like "Challengers" and "Mass Romantic" absolutely flawlessly. It was a perfect illustration that the real star of the band is the songwriting of Carl Newman, regardless of who is singing the tunes. Between Calder's gorgeous vocals and her rosy cheeked smile, I'm probably not the only guy who walked out of that show a little bit smitten.

Apparently the band decided that their latest album Challengers had been out long enough that this tour wasn't geared specifically towards promoting it. Their 90 minute set pulled almost equally from all four of their albums, and closed with a spot on, note perfect rendition of ELO's "Don't Let Me Down." It was easily one of the best live covers I'd ever seen.

Okkervil River played a great set to start out the night. Will Sheff's voice was a bit less rangy than it can sometimes be on record, and the band was tight as hell. But as good as they were, the band was later upstaged by their own singer. Midway through their set, the Pornographers brought Sheff up to serve as a ringer for their other absent vocalist, Dan Bejar, for a take of "Myriad Harbour" that became the highlight of the night.

The New Pornographers - "All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth (Live)" (mp3) from Live From Soho

For those who wish Bejar had taken part in this tour, note that he'll be here in Nashville with his own band, Destroyer, on April 29 at The Mercy Lounge.

photo by Andy


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