Last Friday brought the most exciting double bill in pop music to The Depot in Salt Lake City—The New Pornographers, in support of their latest album Brill Bruisers, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, in support of theirs, Days of Abandon.
The Pains’ set featured a modest handful of tunes from Abandon, as well as highlights from Belong and their self-titled debut. The Pains were a treat to see—the last time they played in Salt Lake was at Kilby Court with local indie pop band Sleepover, on the heels of the release of their self-titled debut album. Despite their recently revamped lineup, (featuring Dream Diary’s Jacob Sloan, and Anton and Christoph Hocheim from The Depreciation Guild) Kip Berman has kept keen pop songwriting the band’s heart. Berman, who was hocking the band’s merch and chatting with fans before their set began, led the band with a gracious sincerity.
Opening with the energetic “Until The Sun Explodes” and “Heart In Your Heartbreak,” the band—dressed in their Pastels best—did a good job of warming the crowd, who, despite being mostly unfamiliar with the Pains’ catalogue, seemed to be enjoying themselves. “Kelly” and “Simple and Sure” from Abandon showcased the Pains’ most John Hughes–esque tunes yet, though the live band skipped the synths that helps define those songs.
Members of the audience who clearly booked this night for the Pains bopped in delight at the only two tracks they played from their debut, “Come Saturday” and “Young Adult Friction,” the latter of which remains the group’s most popular song, which was followed with “Coral and Gold,” Belong’s titular track and “Life After Life.” Closing their short, albeit sweet set, with their anthemic self-titled track, “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart,” the Pains left an indelible mark on both the pop kids and Porno-holdouts.
The New Pornographers, who last visited Utah during 2010’s Twilight Concert Series, lit up the crowd with tunes from their latest album Brill Bruisers, and embarked on a whirlwind tour through their hook-laden career. Raucous applause heralded all eight members—including Neko Case, A.C. Newman and Dan Bejar (Destroyer)—of the 15-year-old indie band as they took to the stage. Opening with “Brill Bruisers,” the band took zero time at all to unpack the truckload of pop hooks they brought with them.
Bejar, who only graced the stage for songs that he sung lead on, led the band next with Challengers’ excellent “Myriad Harbour,” left for the power pop stomper “Use It,” coming right back to sing Bruisers’ “War On The East Coast.” Charging onward, they breezed through 2010’s “Moves,” then “All The Old Showstoppers,” where Case flexed her powerhouse voice in harmony with Newman and Kathryn Calder. A seemingly apathetic Bejar came back out for “Jackie, Dressed In Cobras,” and “Testament to Youth in Verse,” which bookended two newer tunes, “Fantasy Fools,” “Another Drug Deal of the Heart” and “The Laws Have Changed,” another showcase for Case’s great voice. They got in “Crash Years” before anyone could even catch their breath.
The Calder–led “Adventures in Solitude,” prefaced by Case saying, “This is the part of the show where Kathryn makes me cry,” revealed a more sensitive side than the Porno’s hook-laden barrages of power pop typically lets on, and charmed the crowd. The rest of the set mixed new tracks “Backstairs,” “Champion of Red Wine” and “Spidyr” (a modified track from Bejar’s Swan Lake) with “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk,” “Sliver Jenny Dollar” and “Mass Romantic.”
After a brief break, they came back out for an encore of “Dancehall Domine” and “The Bleeding Heart Show,” then left and returned for a second encore of “Sing Me Spanish Techno” and “The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism,” which was the jewel in Newman’s pop crown. After 24 songs, two encores and nearly two hours of the most intriguing pop music of the past 15 years, The New Pornographers finally packed in and paid the crowd a final farewell—Brill bruisers, indeed.