We went out with another couple to see the New Pornographers play at the Roxy in Boston last night. We went for shabu shabu for dinner first - it's this thing where they give you a bunch of vegetables and meat and a pot of boiling broth or water to cook the veggies and meat in. It was fucking delicious and affordable. I heart Chinatown. Also, despite the fact that there were nine million people with individual pots of boiling water, the windows weren't even steamed up, because they have the most hardcore, efficient and quiet ventilation system I've ever seen.
Anyway, the concert.
That was what I could see. Thanks, Roxy, for not allowing people upstairs to the balconies.
Admittedly we didn't arrive as the doors opened and scooch down front or anything. In fact we skipped the opening act (Emma Pollock, who is from Glasgow and seems to sing innocuous folky stuff, judging by the songs on her myspace profile and by the last half of her last song that we arrived in time to hear.) So no loss on the opening act.
The band themselves were good, although man - despite not being able to see, there were crazy bright horrible floodlights that were flashing in time to the music, directly in my eyes. I saw a lot of people wincing every time the floods got started. I swear it was like the Battle of the Seizure Robots in there. (I always thought that was just a Simpsons joke, but it turns out that the joke is based on a banned Pokemon episode whose bright flashing lights really did induce seizures in epileptic viewers. Fucked up!)
But no complaints about the playing - totally professional and tight, which I would expect from any supergroup and especially this one, which has been around for a while and has been touring Challengers extensively. I even got chills during My Rights Versus Yours, although that might have just been the garlic from dinner making itself at home in my digestive system.
One of the Pornographers (heh) was holding some kind of round object up at one point and we all compared notes.
"Is that ... an orange?"
"I thought since the lyrics were talking about the sun, maybe it's some kind of model..."
We eventually realized that it was a shaker. We realized this when he started shaking it near the microphone - to absolutely no effect, since you couldn't hear anything over the electronic beeps and clapping and shit that another dude on stage was putting out with his laptop. Seriously, in the front lineup were people singing, playing guitars and keyboards and one dude with a mike and a laptop. The hilarious thing about the guy with the laptop (Mac) was that he just stood absolutely still for most of the show, like he was watching paint dry or in a catatonic trance.
Anyway - we all agreed that it was a good show and also that it was a lot of standing up and that we are all old (even though the people we were out with are, I think, both 27. Le sigh.) Most of the audience looked like they were in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, and I'd say the four of us covered that demographic pretty well. The rest of the audience must have agreed with us on tiredness, because the crowd was a lot more subdued than I'd expected - I'd attribute that to Boston stuffed-shirtness, but I've seen crowds go batshit for Weezer and Iggy Pop. (Weezer was younger than last night's crowd, and Iggy's audience was mostly older.) Maybe it's just that young professionals work harder? (... not that you could tell from my workplace.) Maybe it was the band's fault, I can't say they bothered with much patter (and what there was was completely mumbled into the mike, so even if songs were announced beforehand I had no idea what was coming besides another song, named something.) Also, I wasn't actually wearing my black rimmed cat's eye glasses, but plenty of other people were wearing glasses like that so the hipster quotient was fulfilled, I think.
During the post-mortem afterwards, one person observed that it was good, but only with about every third song was she all, "hell YEAH! This song rocks!" ... to which Dave responded, "That's because they only write four kinds of songs." Which I think is fairly accurate. They played about 50% from Challengers (the only album I really know well) but I could peg where their other songs fit into - "oh yeah, that one's like "All The Things That Go To Make Heaven And Earth". I wish I knew what the name of the last song before the encore was, because it was fucking AWESOME. (And in the same vein as "My Rights Versus Yours".)
Nico Case has pipes though, I'll tell you. She was so loud (I think - maybe too close to the mike?) but also so perfectly on key that it kind of maxed out the equipment. I don't really know how to describe this effect, except to say that it's the same thing you hear when you've got an old vinyl copy of Fleetwood Mac on the stereo turned up pretty loud and Stevie Nicks's voice kind of blats out of the speakers, as if when they originally recorded it in the studio she overwhelemed the recording capabilities of the equipment. I'm not a huge Stevie fan but last night might have converted me to Nico. (Sniffle ... wish I could sing like that.)
Final thought: last night I didn't think the live versions of the song were super different live, but while writing this post I looked up and accidentally clicked on Challengers in my iTunes liberry and they really did rock a lot harder live. Plus my earbuds that live at work suck ass.
There you have it, my not very profound (but long winded, as usual) thoughts on the show last night. I hope you enjoyed it, because I usually average about one concert a year (and even then I often fall asleep. Sorry 'bout that, Iggy. And Death Cab. But especially sorry to Iggy, who put on a fucking great show and was like this crazy flea hopping up and down, all old and wiry and full of energy and muscle tone. My celexa-induced somnolence was stronger than your manic vibes.)
...and here's where I should apologize for stealing some of Dave's best lines in this blog post. It's why I love you though, because you're funny. And also because your knowledge of Simpsons is better than mine. Thanks, doll!