The neon curves spelling “Brill Bruisers” illuminated blue and red on the stage as The New Pornographers opened with a bang during its show at the Wiltern Friday. The bold chorus of the title track of its new album, released in August, immediately set the energy high.
After the Pains of Being Pure at Heart opened the show, The New Pornographers entered to a welcoming crowd, many of whom pooled in from the main lobby at its arrival.
The fans of the Canadian band seemed to double in enthusiasm when vocalist Neko Case took the lead in performing “Myriad Harbour” off the band’s 2007 album “Challengers.” Confidently clad in jeans and an old t-shirt, she sang smoothly alongside lead vocalist and guitarist A.C. Newman.
Under the glow of the blue lights emanating from the keyboards, general enthusiasm seemed restrained even in the pit, as if the audience had passed the age deemed appropriate to unabashedly yell praise at the performers. The fans varied in appearance from sporting brightly dyed hair to button-up shirts, but seemingly belonged to the same generation of millennials. The audience’s commitment to the band was clear, however, as everyone – whether lip syncing every word or quietly watching from the mezzanine – held rapt attention to the stage.
After “Myriad Harbour,” Newman briefly departed from playing guitar and brought out his harmonica for a solo as Dan Bejar took over vocals in “War on the East Coast” in a moment that defined “Brill Bruisers” distinctly from the group’s previous albums as a more spunky record.
Drummer Joe Seiders, who joined the band recently to tour for “Brill Bruisers,” earned the respect of the audience with his soulful drumming on “Use It.” At the end of the set, Seiders received a shout out from Newman for joining them for the tour after original drummer Kurt Dahle announced his separation from the band in September.
Case reiterated this sentiment, clearly thankful for his replacement. Newman cited the split as amiable, and Seiders’ addition as bringing new strength to The New Pornographers.
The vibe became sentimental as the band transitioned to songs such as “Moves” and “Adventures in Solitude,” highlighting the concert as a definitive mix of old and new. Even to a recently adopted fan of The New Pornographers, the distinction between the more upbeat songs from “Brill Bruisers” and the group’s older ballads, especially from “Together” and “Challengers,” was clear.
Crooning about streetlight dawn as they finished with “Mass Romantic,” the band left the stage and the crowd was left reeling for more. As the crowd’s shouting and stomping amplified, the band returned onto stage for an encore, beginning with a request to play “The Bleeding Heart Show.”
After Newman ended the encore with “Execution Day” and “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism,” he returned to the forefront of the stage momentarily to collect his guitar as the concertgoers anticipated a potential fourth song. As The New Pornographers left the stage for the final time, the audience hesitated, as if they were reluctant to end such an involved concert experience. From the buzz of the melodica to Newman’s distinctively engaging voice, the concert explored the blurred lines between rock and pop in a revelatory experience for new and old fans alike.
– Emaan Baqai