Music’s ability to act as a cultural touchstone for large swaths of people is a pretty amazing thing. Some intangible but powerful element creates transformative, communal experiences shared by a seemingly disparate group of people. Nowhere else is this more evident than at live shows. When a room full of strangers start losing their collective shit the minute the house lights drop, that’s some powerful magic. So, it was truly fascinating to observe this exact phenomenon when Spoon and The New Pornographers came out on Le Métropolis’ stage, especially to someone who, outside of a little pre-show internet research, knew absolutely nothing about either band.
Canadian indie darlings The New Pornographers took the stage to cheers of a jubilant audience. Skipping any sort of introduction, the band opened with “Brill Bruisers” and followed with “High Ticket Attractions” from the group’s new record Whiteout Conditions. Lead singer/guitarist Carl Newman, vocalist/violinist Simi Sernaker, bassist John Collins, lead guitarist Todd Fancey, Keyboardist Blaine Thurier, keyboardist/vocalist Kathryn Calder, and drummer Joe Seiders all sounded relaxed and cohesive, especially for such a massive band. The music never felt overly busy despite having the equivalence of a high school concert band on stage. While the songs were layered and complex, they were, at their core, ultra-catchy, danceable indie rock jams. The number of different instruments and voices on stage also led to a lot of variety; from the synth driven dream pop of “Champions of Red Wine” and “Play Money” to the more rock n’ roll foot stompers like big hit “Use It” and the band’s closing song “Mass Romantic.”
While the band seemed to be having a great time, there was almost no interaction with the audience. Newman addressed the crowd briefly near the start of the set and made a joke about moving to town, but beyond that, the band just kept to the music. That said, this may have been a conscious choice to cram in as many fan favourite tunes into their 45-minute set. Based on the consistently enthusiastic cheering from the crowd, probably a solid play.
The amount of crew on stage during the changeover between bands meant two things: US alt pop rockers Spoon would have an elaborate stage set up and that the changeover would give me enough time to run to La Belle Province and cram a couple of cheeseburgers down my gullet. Adequately refuelled on salty, fatty goodness, I made my way up to Metropolis’ second-floor balcony to get a better vantage point for Spoon’s set. When the house lights went down, the room was bathed in sustained guitar and synth reverb as they took the stage. As the stage lights came up to reveal a multi-tiered stage that was backdropped by huge, ornate geometric shapes and gold curtains, Spoon launched into the title track from their new record Hot Thoughts. Lead singer/guitarist Britt Daniel was a total Goddamn firecracker throughout the lengthy performance; constantly moving around the entire stage, swinging his guitar around and frequently calling out to the exuberant crowd. The band then quickly switched up the vibe and Daniel ditched his guitar to go full crooner on the airy, mid-paced ballad “Inside Out.” Then, he got everyone’s feet moving again with the slinky bass thump of “I Turn My Camera On.” While the band’s sound is rooted in rock, Spoon are clearly more focused on making people dance, incorporating elements of indie-infused pop and 60s funk that relies equally on the great synth sounds from multi-instrumentalists Rob Pope, Gerardo Larios, and Alex Fichel, as well as the rock-solid, back beat from drummer Jim Eno. Speaking of multi-instrumentals, watching these guys effortlessly switch between guitars and keys multiple times throughout the night was impressive—clearly a talented group of players.
After a surprisingly haunting synth interlude, Spoon kicked out a flurry of tunes from across their discography including “I Ain’t The One,” “My Mathematical Mind,” and “Don’t Make Me a Target.” They closed out the set with “Rainy Taxi,” and the band left the stage, but with a healthy break and a good amount of chanting from the crowd, Daniel returned to the stage by himself to perform a solo acoustic version of “I Summon You.” The rest of the band returned for “Pink Up” and “Got Nuffin” before finishing up with “Rent I Pay.”
While both Spoon and The New Pornographers are not my preferred cup of greasy, black tea, both bands demonstrated that a solid live performance has the power to pull even the most distant satellites into their atmosphere, if only for one evening.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Danielle Kenedy