The New Pornographers were headlining a tour with Novillero and The Immaculate Machine, in celebration of Mint Record's fifteenth birthday celebration. Their Ottawa show was held at the new Capital Music Hall. Having not been there before I had trouble finding the venue. While the Capital Music Hall is in the entertainment district and on a well known road, the entrance is at the back of the building, off the parking lot. So one can waltz along York St. in search of this new big music venue, and seeing the number's on the buildings skip, and suddenly feel like this is a nasty joke. The dilemma doesn't last long as the neighbouring bar's doormen are accustomed to redirecting confused music fans.
Upon entering I found the room to be smaller than expected but I appreciated the intimate vibe. The stage is set up along the left wall from which the long rectangular dance floor stretches back to the bars. Anywhere on the floor one still feels close to the stage and the balconies along the three walls provide a perfect view, as well as barstools and couches for those aching legs. The lighting rig zigzags across the ceiling and altogether the room seems in good form for live music.
I arrived just in time for The New Pornographers who were just getting ready to hit the stage. Apologizing my way to the stage, I joined the expectant crowd. The floor was about two thirds full, and the balconies sparsely lined along the rail. Considering the kick performance The New Pornographers had given at Bluesfest, I was surprised at the lower than expected numbers. The five-piece entered the stage, got comfortable and opened with the bold rhythm of "Sing Me Spanish Techno." The New Pornographers technically consists of eight members. On stage were five: Blane Thurier on synthesizer, Kurt Dahle on drums, John Collins on bass and guitar, Kathryn Calder on keys and vocals and A.C. Newman on guitar and lead vocals.
Basically, The New Pornographers claim to be "made up of A.C. Newman and a group of ridiculously talented people he feels are uniquely equipped to realize his musical ambitions." Unfortunately, this night did not include Neko Case, who plays quite a large part in realizing Newman's musical ambitions. However, it was easy to see by the second song, 'The Laws Have Changed,' that not much would be missing thanks to Kathryn Calder's confident vocals.
The first time I had seen The New Pornographers they were playing to a packed crowd at the Black Sheep Stage at Bluesfest, 2006. The road outside the fence was also packed with those not allowed in. Their sound rushed through the sun burnt faces of the summer crowd, who responded in harmony with the music. They danced. And I, watched the band through my camera lens, amazed at their complex melodic lines and intricate harmonies. The element of surprise and delight together with the overall stellar performance made the night utterly memorable. I was waiting for it. That massive rush of the music stealing me away. But it hadn't happened and I was left frustrated.
Then the band entered The Bleeding Heart Show. AhhÖ My hopes rose, I stood up, joined the crowd along the balcony rail and wished the feel good harmony could last forever. And while my life was not changed by The New Pornographer's show, for a few glorious moments all was right in my world. That's more than good enough.
Writer: Lara Purvis