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Sunday, April 13, 2008

They were showing us on both screens

CONCERT REVIEW: New Pornographers & Okkervil River

April 12, 2008
Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, Pittsburgh

Seeing the New Pornographers with Neko Case makes me wonder how on earth this band can ever go on tour without her. She is irreplaceable. Neko's wonderful voice was the star of the show as the New Porns made their first visit to Pittsburgh in years.

"These are the Fables" was an early highlight, standing out due to Neko's vocal delivery and the fact it was the only ballad played during the first dozen songs. "Challengers" and "Stacked Crooked" showcased beautiful harmonies between Case, singer Carl Newman, and keyboardist Kathryn Calder.

Then it was banter time.

"I'm not pregnant; I just like this shirt," said Case of her loose-fitting attire, causing Newman to fear tabloid rumors. "Neko Case pregnant - tomorrow's headline on pitchforkmedia.com," he joked. "Who's the father? Sufjan?"

Neko's star presence outshined Newman, who was in fine form in his own right, impressively leading the band through "Use It," a sped-up, bass-centric "Twin Cinema," and an ass-kicking cover of ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down."

The show closer was "The Bleeding Heart Show," which happens to be my favorite song of the past few years by any artist. The soaring climax with Neko singing atop the "hey la, hey la" background melody gets me every time. I've waited a long time to see the New Pornographers live, and it was worth it.


Openers Okkervil River were equally good. The Austin indie rockers sounded nearly flawless on "Unless It's Kicks" and "Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe," the latter of which really took off when frontman Will Sheff went into his upper register. And they managed to talk the audience into participating in a sing-along on the emotional closer, "Westfall."


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