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Before going to this show, I wondered if supporting the quieter, more melancholy songs on his brand new third solo album Shut Down the Streets would be problematic for A.C. Newman. In fact, echoing the liner notes that Elvis Costello penned for a mid ’90s reissue of his 1986 album Blood and Chocolate, I wondered if his backing band would sound like they were playing with boxing gloves on the quieter material while trying to balance the much more upbeat, power-pop oriented material on 2004’s The Slow Wonder and 2009’s Get Guilty with material from the new album. Thankfully, aside from a few minor sound issues, it went flawlessly and our worries were assuaged. In fact, new songs like “I’m Not Talking” blended seamlessly with material like Get Guilty‘s “The Heartbreak Rides” and “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer” (which Newman introduced as a bossa nova number) along with lots of material from The Slow Wonder.
There were many highlights from The Slow Wonder portion of the set, but my favorite was “The Town Halo”, which he played as an encore. There were no songs by his band The New Pornographers or any covers in the set and though the show was under-attended (though not woefully so), Newman was in fine spirits, joking with the crowd on numerous occasions between songs and even giving detailed (and very personal) explanations for the lyrics on songs like “Come Crash” and the aforementioned “The Heartbreak Rides”.
Opener The Mynabirds is the newest band of former Georgie James (a great short-lived DC duo with one album, 2007’s Places) member Laura Burhenn. Now based in Omaha, it’s nice to see indie rock (a notoriously non-political genre) so concerned with the world around itself and not as insular as it usually is. Burhenn’s enthusiasm is palpable and contagious, as she got the crowd to sing along at one point as well.
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