Last Night in Cleveland: The New Pornographers

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Canadian supergroup the New Pornographers rolled into town last night on the final stop of their current tour with Austin’s Okkervil River – a super-tour of sorts for indie-rock fans. Taking the Beachland Ballroom stage just after 8:30, Okkervil River’s shaggy frontman Will Sheff said, “Sorry we’re late. We just kinda thought if we never got onstage, the tour with the New Pornographers would never end.” A nice sentiment, for sure, especially considering that Okkervil more than held its own opening for one of indie’s biggest acts and has no need to feel like little kid brother tagging along ... Playing for a little more than an hour, Okkervil plowed through a lot of material from its latest album, The Stage Names, plus a few selections from Black Sheep Boy. What comes off as occasionally polished on record takes on a new sound live, especially cuts like “A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene” and “A Stone,” which was permeated with oodles of emotion and wandering vocals. The New Pornographers that followed Okkervil were a bit short on members last night. Dan Bejar is busy touring with his other band, Destroyer, and Neko Case pulled out of the tour because of a broken ankle – leaving many brokenhearted boys in the audience. So, this supergroup was kinda like Superman missing a leg and hand: still better than your average person, but not perfect. The Pornographers also performed for a little more than an hour. But they still managed to tear through what seemed like a ton of songs, since no one really said a word between tunes. They were simultaneously amazing and business-like. They did yeoman’s work on favorites from Electric Version and a handful of songs from their latest album, Challengers. Kathryn Calder more than adequately stepped up for the missing Case on “Mass Romantic” and other Neko staples. But the set’s highlight was “Myriad Harbor,” which featured Okkervil’s Sheff on vocals. “The Bleeding Heart Show” – that incredibly catchy tune with lots of “hey-na”s from the University of Phoenix commercial – gave way to a pair of encores: a cover of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” and a roaring rendition of their own “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism.” If you like to look at pictures, check out the slide show. --Vince Grzegorek

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