New Pornographers + Born Ruffians @ Corona Theatre – 13th October 2017

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New Pornographers Montreal

Yet again, Montreal gig-goers are spoiled for choice tonight. Aside from Deadmau5 at the Bell Centre, they’re fairly similar choices too for the Alternative crowd, with Beach Fossils and Phoenix also headlining shows across the city, which surely goes someway to explaining why Théatre Corona is only about a quarter full by the time openers Born Ruffians hit the stage.

Born Ruffians Montreal

The sparse crowd is not lost on Born Ruffians either, who jokingly quip at the start “alright, Montreal at 8 o clock on Friday, yeah!” Unperturbed, they blast through a 40-minute set that leans heavily from their upcoming new record, as yet untitled. And the new songs sound great too, the standout being the incredibly catchy Ocean’s Deep, with its wonderfully intricate bass line, and Miss You, dedicated to tonights headliners, since it’s the penultimate night of their tour together, and, well, they’ll miss them. The set wraps up with a few older songs; after the stripped down Little Garcon, I try my luck shouting for Hummingbird. No luck, though I was assured from the stage (and after the show) that they appreciated me shouting for it! They close out the set with the equally great Needle and We Made It, the latter of which is accompanied by blazing strobes and crashing drums to epic effect. Another great set from one of the most underrated bands around, and one which bodes well for the new album.

Born Ruffians Setlist

Ring That Bell
Ocean’s Deep
Don’t Live Up
& On & On & On
Fade To Black
Miss You
Love Too Soon
Forget Me
Little Garcon
We Made It

You could argue that The New Pornographers are pretty underrated too, having released 7 albums over 17 years, and yet never seeming to get the recognition their rock-solid discography deserves. Indeed, there’s no timelier reminder of this than when the opening bars of The Jessica Numbers ring out to start the show, in all its stop-start, disjointed glory, from the epic 2005 Twin Cinema record. Whiteout Conditions, the title track from the new record of the same name, comes next, and is equally stunning, standing comfortably alongside anything they ever wrote. Much the same can be said of that entire record, the primary reason I chose this show tonight over the multitude of options available, and pretty much the only thing I’ve listened to since the bands last visit here opening for Spoon back in July.

The harmonies between frontman A.C. (Carl) Newman, violinist Simi Stone and keyboardist Kathryn Calder add an extra dimension to the already-great songs, and transcend the bands back-catalogue too, from the new songs like Colosseums, Play Money, and High Ticket Attractions, to older offerings such as Dancehall Domine and set closer The Bleeding Heart Show. If you think they sound good on record, try hearing them live! Epic stuff. The spacey-sounding Champions Of Red Wine features angelic lead vocals from Kathryn alongside a driving bass line, and contrasts spectacularly with the party vibe that follows a few songs later with Sing Me Spanish Techno, though that may be in part due to the tray of whisky shots brought to the stage by one guy in the crowd immediately preceding the song! Carl admits “I don’t usually touch the stuff,” downs the shot, and proclaims “now we’re messed up!!!”

The show ends just as strongly as it started, with the classic Use It and Mass Romantic closing out the main set, followed by a two-song encore of Brill Bruisers and The Bleeding Heart Show, with the triumphant “hey la, hey la” chorus ringing out from the stage and around the room in unison to wrap up a stunning 90 minutes. Montreal may have been spoiled for gig choice tonight, but for those who picked Théatre Corona tonight, it was a no-brainer.

The New Pornographers Setlist

The Jessica Numbers
Whiteout Conditions
Dancehall Domine
The Laws Have Changed
High Ticket Attractions
Champions of Red Wine
Adventures in Solitude
All the Old Showstoppers
This is the World of the Theater
Sing Me Spanish Techno
Play Money
Testament to Youth in Verse
Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
Avalanche Alley
Use It
Mass Romantic

Brill Bruisers
The Bleeding Heart Show

Review & photos – Simon Williams