The New Pornographers had only played the Beachland Ballroom during stops in Cleveland before Saturday's show at the House of Blues, something that lead singer Carl Newman mentioned shortly into the concert. He said something to the effect of, "If you only see Cleveland through that neighborhood [Collinwood], you'd think it was a wasteland." (Paraphrasing there.)
He then turned to siren second-fiddle Neko Case and said it's better, right, to be at the House of Blues? In a rhetorical way.
Neko, never shy with an opinion, responded, "No, I like the Beachland about 8000 times fucking more." Cue raucous audience applause. (In case you were curious, she didn't back off that sentiment later, instead retweeting a whole bunch of things on Twitter to the same effect, including calling the House of Blues franchise the WalMart of concert venues.)
Oh, and there was a show.
The Pornos are still touring of Together, their 2010 release and fifth overall. Saturday night's show was a pretty even swing through the last ten years. Two selections from Mass Romantic — "Mass Romantic," "The Slow Descent into Alcoholism," — a handful from the dynamite Electric Version — including the rarely-played-live-anymore, glowing Neko showcase "All For Swinging You Around," and "Testament to Youth in Verse" — and a hodgepodge of from Twin Cinema, Challengers, and Together.
They hit the sweet spots — "My Rights Versus Yours," "Sing Me Spanish Techno," and the ever-catchy "Bleeding Heart Show" — sounding tight, sugary harmonic, and just a hint more energetic than their last couple of shows in C-town.
Was Neko right? The acoustics in the upper balcony at the HOB can be shoddy, and the Beachland's history and intimacy certainly help show's there, but the New Pornographers did well to carry the larger audience and larger venue, and to quickly make them forget about Neko's quip. After all, they weren't there to hear her talk.
The Walkmen opened. Fresh off a year in which Lisbon was included on plenty of year-end lists, the HOB was pretty much packed by the time The Walkmen took the stage. Their hour-long set was impressive if bland. Hamilton Leithauser's vocals carried loud and true and passionate, but he never really moved, instead taking the patented rock-star lead-singer pose for most the show. Not that the crowd cared.