Concert Reviews

The New Pornographers, Operators at The Danforth Music Hall

Photographs by Fernando Paiz.

Vancouver’s The New Pornographers returned to Toronto for a sold out show at the Danforth Music Hall on February 5, in support of last year’s Brill Bruisers. The band was last in town for a triumphant set at last year’s anything-but-triumphant Riot Fest.

Led by Carl Newman, the band has always been a formidable live act but was unfortunately plagued by sound issues last night.

The eager crowd seemed to be on the verge of euphoria, but a muddy sound mix prevented that from happening. The rhythm section suffered with the bass far too low in the mix, unable to ground the three guitars into a cohesive sound. Song selection and effort were the usual highlights but the sound failed to keep pace.

40 minutes on, Kathryn Calder’s keyboards appeared to give out. I couldn’t tell if this was ever resolved, but she carried on like nothing had happened. In fact, aside from a brief interlude, the entire band played on despite the issues, as all pros should.  Newman did appear to abandon some songs because of this, but compensated by bringing out Dan Bejar for a handful of songs which delighted the crowd. A rousing “Mass Romantic” closed their main set, erasing any memories of shoddy sound.

After having been renovated for its abysmal sound, I’m not sure where last night’s disconnect was. In fact, I was thinking just how fantastic the sound was for opening act Operators.

Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs fame has always put out compelling music that runs right up my alley, so I was sure to be on time for their opening slot, and I’m so happy I was.

Performing with drummer Sam Brown and multi-instrumentalist Devojka, Operators dropped 35 minutes of the most perfect blending of rock and dance music I’ve heard this side of Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR.  By the end of their epic opening song I was already Chicken Lady level excited.  

With the throbbing electro beat, some might have thought they’d walked into the venue on the wrong day, but really it was a thrilling set that provoked hip shaking from the most jaded.

Boeckner was the star of the show, impressively stalking the stage like Nick Cave.  Celebrating his 37th birthday, I’m sure his birthday wish would have been to turn into an octopus as he handled guitar, keys and vocals all while being an entertainer.  Brown went through one of his drums at one point and Devojka impressively worked through a post-birthday hangover.

With only an EP out, I’m not familiar with the new material, but I do plan on getting very acquainted with it in the near future and can’t wait for the full length to come out. One song toward the end of the set referred to sex being so funky, I was expecting the ghost of James Brown to come down from the ceiling. This was one of the best opening sets I’ve ever seen and easily my gig of the year so to date. I was even compelled to refuse cake but tell Boeckner how incredible the set was, like a giddy schoolboy!  More of this please!

Thanks to Collective Concerts for media access. 

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.