Two albums and ten years ago, I arrived, a bright-eyed nineteen-year-old at the iconic San Fransisco Bath House, a small and sticky venue in the heart of Wellington, New Zealand. With barely enough time to grab a drink from the bar, I am interrupted by an eruption of sound from the stage. It was then, that I first discovered and then ultimately fell in love with The New Pornographers. That same explosive energy erupts from the stage at the Melbourne Recital Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Although I find myself in a different country and we both find ourselves ten years older, the feeling of seeing one of the most quintessential indie rock bands of the early 2000’s feels as electric as ever.
The American/Canadian eight-piece is a musical collective made up of some of the most talented vocalists and multi-instrumentalists around. With a career spanning over twenty years and eight studio albums under their belt, this band is no stranger to the stage. Known for their catchy hooks and melodic harmonies, the Pornographers sing their trademark nihilist lyrics to almost ironic power-pop melodies. Lead by indie heavyweights Neko Case and A.C Newman the band skillfully and energetically played through their catalogue appeasing both fans new and old.
From old favourites such as ‘Mass Romantic’ and ‘Challengers’ to songs from their 2019 release ‘In the Morse Code of Brake Lights,’ The New Pornographers performed to adoring fans over an extensive two-hour set. Although the gig was seated and the patron’s average age was somewhere in the thirties, there was no shortage of ferociously bobbing heads and toes tapping in their seats. The sheer presence of the band could be felt with every strum or perfectly harmonised chorus and the power of the band’s four vocalists singing in perfect harmony was all-consuming and filled the Recital Centre in full. Their live shows are an absolute joy to experience and the passion for their craft is evident.
It seemed that the band members being from Canada but mainly residing in America had obvious feelings towards the current state of their country and the world at large. The show’s emcee and most interactive member, A.C Newman often sharing his disdain with the state of America with his Australian fans in breaks between songs. It was this same anecdotal conversation that I remember enjoying so much about their last show and was pleasantly surprised to see it make a return with crowd participation encouraged in between songs.
The Melbourne Recital Centre provided a perfect intimate venue for the night, with an interior that was refined yet familiar, similar to the 2020 version of the Pornographers themselves.
During one of their older songs ‘Crash Years’ from their 2010 album ‘Together’ (one of my personal favourites) Newman humbly tells the crowd, “We had to relearn how to play this song…. we are forever evolving” this waa followed by a quick response in jest from Case “..Evolving back into ourselves”. This statement sat with me for the remainder of the show. I was sitting in a much bigger city and in an entirely different country, hearing mostly the same songs played that I had heard back in Wellington in 2010. Instead, this time around I was hearing them as a reviewer instead of a fresh out of high school, half-drunk punter.
Ten years on and I can confidently say the New Pornographers have not skipped a beat. They remain untouched musically growing in talent and adoration as they continue on in their everlasting musical journey.
All that is left is to wonder where I will be the next time I am lucky enough to see them in action again. Wherever in the world it is, I know they will be just as energetic, just as pessimistic and will sound just as good as they did on Friday.
Where: Melbourne Recital Centre
When: Friday 21 February
Reviewed by Jordyn Workman