On July 19th the New Pornographers played a live session on Morning Becomes Eclectic before headlining a show at LA's Music Box. Jason Bentley was way too chipper for the sleepy group, launching into a love fest for singer Neko Case which only seemed to make the band more uncomfortable. This focus on Case has thrown this collaborative effort off before with her fiery red hair and warm, womanly vocals. Bently continued with a "back off dude" as if to reference the incident in Boston where she took issue with a fan that threw something on stage. (If you need to see it, cover your ears but here ya go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8-1EPeYn3A&feature=player_embedded)
The whole exchange only made me miss Nick Hardcourt more, the former Musical Director/dj for the show who now only appears on Sunday nights. You can listen to his shows "on demand" anytime like I do weekly once if not twice. Here's the link, it's well worth it. http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/sc/sc
However the band sounded great, opening with "Crash Years" off the latest CD Together, a pick on my Summer 2010 Playlist. There's some more banter during an awkward interview between sets with some standard questions and more spotlighting of Neko Case's beauty which only added to the lackluster atmosphere. As Jason Bently sheepishly admitted, "We're wheeling out the classics." I even noticed some listener complaints on the kcrw website about the exchange (now deleted) so clearly others found it similarly boring.
With rumored infighting between the two main songwriters over the years, Carl Newman and Dan Bejar, all this has me a bit worried. Newman's niece Kathryn Calder joined the band to fill in for Case when her many side projects kept Case too busy for gigs but Calder is now a full fledged member with many songs featuring main vocals. Keeping busy on the side is perhaps what is saving this band from disintegrating? In my post about their NYC concert in June, I described how Bejar would join the others on stage only when necessary -- even playing guitar with his back to his audience. After the show I spotted him jaywalking away from the venue with a female companion as if he couldn't get out the place fast enough. Bejar's distinctive voice adds so much to the band and it offsets Newman's clean cut scout persona. I can only hope they can continue to find a way to work 'together' and keep the new tunes coming.
Listen to the session here -- or you can even watch!http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/mb/mb100719the_new_pornographer