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  THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS w/ The Frames and Grumpy  
  The Echo Lounge  
  East Atlanta, GA  
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All in all, we Minions aren't the festive type. In fact, we only have two officially sanctioned celebrations: Oglethorpe Day (which makes sense since the majority of the minions attended scenic Oglethorpe University) and Snake-Whacking Day. But that's about it. So the irony of the date of the Atlanta New Pornographer's concert was lost on me: St. Valentine's Day is not a holiday that tends to stick in my consciousness.

But, truth be told, I was looking forward to this show. The New Pornographer's 2000 release, Mass Romantic, is an album that has grown on me since the time I purchased it. Originally, I had found this take on sunny BritPop not as impressive as its reviews would have you believe; however as time progressed, I had to admit the catchiness of the tunes and the exuberance of the delivery persuaded me. Furthermore, PostLibyan's been raving about the recordings of openers The Frames for a long time and I was eager to see if the band could live up to his compliments.

When we got to The Echo Lounge, the first band, Atlanta's Grumpy, had already begun to play. I had seen them once long ago, when The Echo Lounge has first opened, and, if I remember correctly, I had liked them. Hearing them again, I was struck by their hard take on the '90's Chapel Hill Indie Rock sound, full of heavy rhythm and distorted guitars. These days, the closest relatives to Grumpy's version of this music come out of Athens, where bands like Ceiling Fan and Hayride play similar-sounding songs. It's fun and a little over the top and, on this night, it provided an ideal, upbeat opener for the rest of the show.

As I mentioned before, PostLibyan's been raving about The Frames for quite a while now, so I'm more or less familiar with their music. In general, I like their powerful pop sound, although I tend to like my pseudo-Irish rock music a little more drunken (or angry, depending on the time). However, on this night, The Frames were far far better than I ever could have expected. Why? Because, although they primarily played songs from their two most recent albums, they altered them in concert, adding flourishes or other melodies that enhanced the overall structure. Furthermore, vocalist/guitarist Glen Hansard used the downtime between songs to tell anecdotes about the music. The entire package of music, story-telling, and embellishment truly added to the overall set, and reminded me of the energy and humor displayed by many of my favorite live bands, not least of which is the Irish-American band Black 47. Around me, the crowd seemed to agree, becoming more and more animated by The Frames as their set progressed.

After the excellent performance of The Frames, I wasn't sure what The New Pornographers could offer up. And in some ways, they didn't really top The Frames. Instead, their set was exactly what you might expect: tightly played, cheerfully fun, mid-60s (by way of early 90s) BritPop. And, also as you might expect, it seemed like the vast majority of the audience was focused on the singing and antics of co-vocalist Neko Case. And both of these components were just as good as one would hope.

However, on this evening, there was one element that made this concert even better: the singing and playing of guitarist/vocalist Carl Newman. Although many reviews of The New Pornographers make this band sound like "Neko Case and her BritPop Boyfriends," it was clear at this show that Newman's vision and singing are the real backbone of the unit. I noticed it during the energetic rendition of Slow Descent into Alcoholism which began the set, and my opinion solidified as the night progressed. Like a cruise director, Newman kept everything focused and moving, while providing a lush masculine counterpoint to Case's flashier vocal exercises.

In short, they all sounded great (courtesy of the occasionally dodgy Echo Lounge soundboard), and I was truly sad when it came to end. These days, it seems like it's rare to get two excellent bands on a concert bill (much less three), so I have to say that as a show experience, it was wondrously successful, with all three bands ending up getting my highest recommendations.

Related Links:

Mass Romantic by The New Pornographers
For The Birds by The Frames


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