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The New Pornographers Give 'Brill Bruisers' Life at Celebrate Brooklyn! [Live Review]

by Carolyn Menyes   Jul 13, 2015 15:26 PM EDT

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For a beautiful summer day, there is little better musical accompaniment than some peppy rock and roll, and that's what fans at BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park got on Saturday (July 11) night. In the latest for the free concert series, The New Pornographers returned to the bandshell for the first time in 10 years with a little help from Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.

The night kicked off with an energetic set from Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, whose poppy indie gems laid a solid groundwork for what The New Pornographers were going to bring. The unending bops, carried by a heavy bassline underneath Thao Nguyen's light, airy voice, got the increasingly packed crowd at Prospect Park moving, no easy feat.

After Thao & The Get Down Stay Down brought the funk, it was time for The New Pornographers, who were performing with a few empty slots in its roster. Unfortunately for fans of the band and its all-star lineup, neither Neko Case nor Dan Bejar were on hand for this tour as Case focuses on her solo career and Bejar preps for the new Destroyer album due out later this year. However, Kaitlyn Calder made the transfer of sounds nearly seamless, with one unknowing Twitter fan mistaking Case for being present.

Despite the hiccup of absent popular band members, The New Pornographers tore through a 22-song setlist. From the start, it was clear that this show would have a positive, powerful and poppy mood as the band kicked things off with Brill Bruisers' standout title track. The blend of "Bah bahs" was satisfying and harmonious, setting a precedent that would carry through the lengthy concert.

Known for having a pitch perfect live sound, The New Pornographers delivered on the warm and welcoming Saturday night, bringing its latest album Brill Bruisers to life with stunning musical accuracy, sounding almost undistinguishable from the LP itself.

The vocal harmonies in particular between A.C. Newman and Case's fill-in were stunning, continuing the groundwork laid by Brill Bruisers. Though new albums tend to be a thing of dread at most concerts, the pop rock samplings from the latest New Pornographers LP are what resonated the best through the gorgeous Prospect Park. Everything from the opening track to "Dancehall Domine" to "Fantast Fools" and "Champions of Red Wine" simply glistened in the night, with the shiny synth playing well against Newman's crisp guitar work and Joseph Seiders' steady drums.

Between new cuts, The New Pornographers revisited fan favorites, throwing everything from 2000's "Mass Romantic" to Challengers cut "Adventures in Solitude" into the mix. It's a testament to the band's distinguishable sound when they can weave in new and old music, something The New Pornographers did with ease.

The set highlights came via the small, slow moments, which may have had something to do with the nostalgia Newman felt for this particular show. Canada Day 2005 was the last time The New Pornographers took on Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and it was at that show that Newman met the woman that would become his wife and mother of his son. "I'm thinking about how hellish my life would be if I didn't play this show," he said before slowing it down in the encore for "Challengers."

But it was that emotion and energy that helped the packed crowd on that New York summer night walk away satisfied, 10 years later.

The New Pornographers Setlist at Celebrate Brooklyn!, July 11, 2015:

Brill Bruisers
Moves
Use It
The New Face of Zero and One
Dancehall Domine
Your Hands (Together)
Another Drug Deal of the Heart
The Laws Have Changed
You Tell Me Where
Testament to Youth in Verse
The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism
Fantasy Fools
Adventures in Solitude
All the Old Showstoppers
Champions of Red Wine
Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
Sing Me Spanish Techno
Backstairs
Mass Romantic

Encore:
Challengers
Twin Cinema
The Bleeding Heart Show

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