Last Thursday night, I had the pleasure of witnessing one of the best bands play at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre. The New Pornographers are one of those bands that no matter which song they play, the audience knows that it is going to be amazing. Unfortunately, the New Pornographers have signed up bands that don’t quite coincide with its style of upbeat, fast-paced songs.
The band that started up the night was exactly what its name portrays: the Awkward Stage were exactly that – awkward. While they were talented and knew how to play and did that very well, there was a general lack of connection between the audience and the band members. This alienation could be explained by the lead singer’s current recovery from a bout of food poisoning, which he so thoughtfully shared when he pointed out that the crowd should be grateful for the barricade separating them from him.
Although they did not have the largest crowd, they were talented and introduced a variety of instruments into their music, including a trumpet, flute, clarinet, piano and bells, which suggests these were the guys who played in the high school marching band and started a rock band to break free from structure.
The next band to appear on stage was regretfully not the New Pornographers but rather a band that was able to single-handedly kill any crowd reaction that was developing. Lavender Diamond is a band that would have better luck in a coffeehouse or, as the lead singer put it, school groups. The simplistic set involved only two drums, a piano, an acoustic guitar and the apparently stoned singer. Lavender Diamond songs were slow and a complete opposite of what the New Pornographers are
Everyone in the audience was revitalized once the New Pornographers took the stage. Standing in darkness with nothing but a large, lit sign with “NEW PORNOGRAPHERS” written on it, the crowd was up and ready to rock. The band played a variety of songs from past albums and the newest album, Challengers, and had the audience dancing, waving and singing along to A.C. Newman’s fast-paced vocals and Neko Case’s harmonies. Listening to the New Pornographers perform conjures the feeling of hearing organized chaos blasted from a speaker and blowing your mind.
When A.C. Newman became slightly confused halfway through the set and forgot where he was, but the band quickly recovered and was back on the ball, and played “Bleeding Heart Show.” Later, the New Pornographer’s three-song encore, which Newman labeled the “Electric Version Super Set,” ended the night with high spirits all around.