The New Pornographers
When the New Pornographers first got together in 1997, the project was about as serious as its name. With three key members -- alt-country chanteuse Neko Case and singer-songwriters Carl Newman and Dan Bejar -- already entrenched in their individual careers, the Vancouver-based pop maestros practiced sporadically, took three years to release their debut and never planned on touring. The success of 2000's "Mass Romantic," however, motivated Newman & Co. to devote a little more energy to this off-hours enterprise, and at a sold-out 9:30 club Saturday night their fans seemed grateful.
Seven contributors to this often-dubbed supergroup -- whose roster fluctuates from six to nine -- crowded the stage, including newest member (and Newman's niece) Kathryn Calder on synthesizer and vocals. Occasionally, the usually non-touring Bejar made them eight, taking a microphone on tracks such as "Breakin' the Law" and the new "Streets of Fire" off their just-released third album, "Twin Cinema." (Handily, Calder and Bejar's full-time groups, Immaculate Machine and Destroyer, opened the show.)
With four-part harmonies, fizzy melodies and a handful of tambourines, the New Pornographers often came off like the indie equivalent of the Partridge Family. Cheery, anthemic singalongs dominated the 75-minute set, including favorites "The Laws Have Changed" and "The Electric Version," with Case's gorgeous voice soaring on each uplifting trademark chorus. The part-time group played into the wee hours of yesterday morning, but the club was filled with pure sunshine.
-- Tricia Olszewski
British rockers have always been considered brainier than their Yank counterparts. Def Leppard, however, is proof oppositive.
Leppard was the best-selling British band of the 1980s, which is something that both the continent and the decade should really apologize for. Two of the Sheffield group's records, "Hysteria" and "Pyromania," sold more than 10 million units each; only five combos in rock history can make that claim.
Turns out there's still a market for vintage buffoon rock. In Leppard's case, a large market: The Nissan Pavilion seemed full for the quintet's Friday show. Fans relived the MTV-fueled heyday of the hair band while crooning along with vocalist Joe Elliott on such ditties as "Love Bites" (climactic lyric: "Makin' love to you might drive me crazy!"), "Animal" ("Like a movin' heartbeat in the witching hour / I'm runnin' with the wind") and, of course, "Pour Some Sugar on Me" ("Love is like a bomb, baby, c'mon, get it on!").
Much of Leppard's success was attributed to producer Mutt Lange, who used the band to prove he could, well, make lemonade out of chicken salad. Lange turned "Armageddon It," a song at least as dumb as anything else ever written ("You like four-letter words when you're ready to," Elliott sang, "but then you won't 'cause you know that you can!") into something the fans actually liked. All these years later, the tune sounds a lot like the polished singles Lange's wife, Shania Twain, has sent up the country charts.
But maybe karma had something to do with Leppard's triumphs, too. Even amid all the artistic idiocy, it's easy to understand why folks root for Leppard. Just when the band was making its cannonball-like splash with the release of "Pyromania," drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm at the shoulder in a car crash. But rather than boot out Allen and ride the wave, his mates stayed out of the limelight for a few years while he learned to bang out a beat with a prosthetic limb. He remains a big hit with the fans. Throughout the Nissan show, a man near the stage waved an artificial leg and screamed genuine support for Allen.
-- Dave McKenna