Live Last Night: A.C. Newman

Writing for the New Pornographers, the redbearded Canadian pop-tometrist Carl "A.C." Newman tends toward freshly glazed melodies, choruses within choruses and kaleidoscopic arrangements. On the records bearing his own name, he does pretty much the same thing.

The idea of the New Pornographer-in-Chief attempting solo renditions of his overstuffed aural candygrams is an intriguing one. But when Newman turned up at the Black Cat last night with a full band to flog "Get Guilty," his second solo LP, you had to wonder what, exactly, might delineate the show or album from a New Pornos project. He even had an easy-on-the-eyes redhead singer/violinist positioned stage-right -- the spot usually occupied by eyes-easy redhead Neko Case, when her own solo career doesn't call her away.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Strange behavior from a guy who declined Case's offer to sing on "Get Guilty," fearing her presence would make it seem -- go figure -- too much like a New Pornographers record. (The album's Case-like backing vocals come courtesy of Nicole Atkins and Kori Gardner of Mates of State.)

The result was essentially a New Pornographers gig, albeit half an hour shorter, in a smaller room, minus the lunatic schtick of Pornos reliever Dan Bejar. Oh, and technically speaking, no NP songs. Instead, Newman resurrected most of "The Slow Wonder," his 2004 solo debut, to round out the 70-minute set. Declaring early on that D.C. "has always been the greatest city to play," he was more animated than in prior appearances, even pausing at one point to hawk the assortment of posters for sale: "Want one with a lightning bolt on it?" he asked. "Want some kinda Chris Ware-lookin' [stuff]?"

Nothing to complain about, in other words. Newman's opening number, the vulnerable "There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve," hinted at an emphasis on the more reflexive side of his often-whimsical songwriting, but the follow-up, "Miracle Drug," quashed that premise just as quickly. By the time the women on either side of Newman joined their voices with his for the euphoric "one by one by one by one" chorus of "Prophets," the line between this band and Newman's other, more famous one was fully and deliciously blurred.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  March 19, 2009; 2:59 PM ET Live Last Night
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