LIVE: The New Pornographers Dazzle in Return to Chicago

The New Pornographers © Jennifer Jimenez

Following the release of The New Pornographers’ latest record, Whiteout Conditions (Concord Music Group), it seems like the first response to the news is, “Wow, they’re still around?” Not only are The New Pornographers still around and releasing music, but also they’re touring around the United States and Europe this spring – an expansive undertaking that including a two-night engagement at the Metro in Chicago this week.

The New Pornographers identify as a musical collective of singer/songwriters from many projects, calling Vancouver their home. While the line-up seems ever-shifting, on April 19th the performing group consisted of A.C. Newman (vocals/guitar), Neko Case (vocals), John Collins (bass), Blaine Thurier (keys/synth), Todd Fancey (lead guitar), Kathryn Calder (vocals/keys/guitar), Joe Seiders (drums, vocals), and Simi Stone (vocals/violin).

Watch: “High Ticket Attractions” – The New Pornographers


It is without a doubt that The New Pornographers know how to put on a show. From the moment they take the stage up until they close the night out, it was an unwavering stream of their unmistakable “power pop” music. Kicking the night off with the first single released from the new record, “High Ticket Attractions,” we were reminded at how effortless the group of eight make performing seem. Their musical presence demands your attention, and entrancing instrumentation is familiar enough to bop along to, but varies enough to keep you on your toes.

Another enjoyable aspect of the evening is the band didn’t stick exclusively with just newer songs, but provided a nice blend of their discography including songs from: Electric Version (Mint/Matador Records, 2003), Twin Cinema (Mint/Matador records, 2005), Together (Matador Records, 2010), Brill Bruisers (Matador Records, 2014), Challengers (Matador Records, 2007), and Mass Romantic (Mint, 2000). This tactic kept the audience spanning from people in their early-mid twenties to the older-middle aged attendees. At any point you could look around the Metro and someone would be losing it to what looked like their favorite song, which was a pretty neat thing to see from a variety of ages.

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions album art

Whiteout Conditions – The New Pornographers album art

One thing that stuck out was the lack of Snapchat representation, too. Not only was it posted around the venue to not take photo/video out of respect for the band, but it was also announced at the beginning of the set, too. It was amazing what a simple request could do, and kept the audience all the more engaged; even though The New Pornographers didn’t seem to have a problem holding our attention anyway.

There was only one aspect that was left to be desired, and that was on what we’ll call “extra content.” Maybe it’s because they’ve been playing for decades, and maybe it’s just the nature of the band getting into the groove and not wanting to break the groove, but there wasn’t much bantering between the musicians and the crowd. It felt like we were just watching these pals jam out together sometimes, and not that that’s a bad thing. There was one point in the show where Stone got the crowd clapping along, and Newman broke the musical streak by saying, “Per capita, that’s the best clapping I’ve ever seen. Like, 40% success rate. Amazing.” Which, the crowd ate up.

The New Pornographers © Jennifer Jimenez

The New Pornographers © Jennifer Jimenez

After playing through “Mass Romantic,” the band left the stage signifying the end of the regular show. The crowd, still going ballistic, lost their minds even more when a couple of the members returned to the stage to play their encore. Including “We’ve Been Here Before,” the rest of the band returned for “Brill Bruisers,” and they closed the evening out with “The Bleeding Heart Show.”

All in all, The New Pornographers proved why they’ve been around for so long, and will continue to be relevant in the indie music scene.  Even though it’s been about four years since the last time they played in Chicago, they easily sold the Metro out for two nights – and left the audience satisfied, confirmed through the chattering echoing through the venue as we returned to our every-day lives.

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cover © Jennifer Jimenez
The New Pornographers :: Tour 2017
4/22 – Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall*
4/25 – Boston, MA – House of Blues*
4/26 – New York, NY – Terminal 5*
4/27 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer*
4/28 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club (sold out)*
4/29 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club*
5/1 – Raleigh, NC – Ritz*
5/2 – Atlanta, GA – Variety Playhouse*
5/3 – New Orleans, LA – Tipitina’s*
5/4 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall*
5/5 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater*
5/6 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s*
5/9 – London, UK – Electric Ballroom
5/10 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso Noord/Tolhuistuin
5/11 – Berlin, DE – Lido
5/13 – Oslo, NO – Vulkan Arena
5/14 – Stockholm, SE – Debaser Strand
5/16 – Copenhagen, DK – Loppen
5/18 – Paris, FR – Divan Du Monde
7/18 – Charlotte, NC – Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amph.†
7/19 – Charlottesville, VA – Sprint Pavilion†
7/22 – Portland, ME – State Theatre†
7/23 – Montreal, QC – Metropolis†
7/26 – Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE†
8/ 11 – Denver, CO – Velorama Festival
info & tix @ thenewpornographers.com

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Whiteout Conditions

an album by the New Pornographers

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions album art

Whiteout Conditions – The New Pornographers album art

Minnesotan at heart, transplanted to Chicago to study Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship at Columbia College. Enjoys long runs on the lakefront path, public radio, and drum corps. Probably scouring Spotify for new music, glued to an audio project, or talking about running shoes.

  • Michelle Anderson

    I was there on Friday night, and it was an amazing set.