It was date night for many couples at the New Pornographers concert at Terminal 5 on June 19th, with most of the crowd wearing shorts and sundresses after a warm, blue-sky day in New York City. Seattle-based group the Duchess and the Duke served up a low-key set, strumming guitars for sparse songs containing cringe-worthy lyrics such as “happy like a clam”. Friend Oscar Michel subbed for the Duke Jesse Lortz after he sustained a bad hand cut halfway into the tour. Lortz was able to play tambourine, however, and sing along with the Duchess Kimberly Morrison. The group looked like it got its name from all the Renaissance fairs it attended; thankfully, the only thing it has in common with the New Pornographers is some whistling.
Meric Long of the Dodos made a cameo appearance in the first set, playing a drum before his band from San Francisco stepped it up with its signature explosive sound. With Logan Kroeber at a drum set and Keaton Snyder behind a xylophone and other percussion, the Dodos treated the fuller audience to “a couple of new songs”, as Long said, before ending with “Fools”, a song which made it to the television last summer in a Miller Chill ad.
The eight members of Vancouver’s the New Pornographers took the stage and opened full-throttle with “Sing Me Spanish Techno” from Twin Cinema (2005), belting out lyrics about listening too long to one song. Carl Newman shares songwriting skills with the elusive Dan Bejar, who liked to wander on and off stage when he wasn’t playing guitar with his back to the audience or singing. At one point Star Wars’ “Imperial March” was played for comedic effect during such a transition, but this elicited only nervous twittering, as people wondered how well this practical trick was received. The distinctive voice of Neko Case (wielding a tambourine) and Newman’s niece Katherine Calder (behind one of the keyboards) rounded out the power-packed vocals. At one point, Newman mentioned how it was Calder’s birthday so it would be nice if everyone sang “Happy Birthday”, which everyone started before he even finished the request.
With little banter in between offerings, the band tore through its set list. Newman introduced “Myriad Harbor” from Challengers (2007) as a tune “for all of you” in the audience with its talk of city life; this was met with a huge cheer in acknowledgment. The whistling came as a group effort in “Crash Years”, and some members of the Dodos came back as a horn section on “A Bite Out of My Bed” (both from Together, as most of the new CD was played live that evening). A four-song encore capped the show, ending in a lovely a cappella sing-a-long for the ringing bells at the end of “Testament to Youth in Verse”.