Published Sep 19, 2016Carl Newman and company emerged into the blistering afternoon sunshine and proceeded to deliver a steady, if perfunctory, set. Make no mistake: this is one of the best bands Canada has ever produced, and their catalogue of inventive power pop has been a crucial strand in the indie rock braid. But here, staring into the sun on what Newman called "this bullshit hot day," the band seemed tired and underwhelmed even as the crowd yelped their approval. Only keyboardist and (tremendous) vocalist Kathryn Calder seemed able to muster a smile during the hour-long set.
Minus sometimes-members Neko Case and Dan Bejar (who rarely tour with them but are sorely missed nonetheless), the Vancouver-based band is tighter, less diverse in their offerings, and yet still mightily compelling. The interplay between Newman and his thoughtful rhythm section (in particular John Collins' inventive work on bass guitar) is a delight to behold. They ran a veritable clinic on how to construct a pop song, and how to twist it into something strange, original, more. On blissed out fan-favourites "All the Old Showstoppers," "Sing Me Spanish Techno," "Mass Romantic" and the indelible, unstoppable set closer "The Bleeding Heart Show," the band made the case that even a tired and underwhelmed New Pornographers is still pretty damned great.