Front Row

The New Pornographers, Live In Concert At The Brill Building

Last week in New York City, on the fringe of Times Square, a band of busy artists gathered in a building brimming with songwriting history. The Brill Building's golden age, when songs like "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" and "Be My Baby" were written in its offices, are in the past, but The New Pornographers' pop music would fit into the mold of that era. You can easily imagine the group's members writing songs in small, secluded rooms to be played on tiny transistors and monophonic record players.

Brill Bruisers is the name of the sixth album by The New Pornographers, shortened by singer/bandleader Carl Newman from the original title "Brilliant Bruisers." By trimming the album's title, Newman made the connection to the famous New York building filled with hit makers and music publishers from the 1940s to the '60s. So it felt undeniable to bring the band into the space that inspired the new album's name. For this one night, we transformed the abandoned retail space on the ground floor of the Brill Building into a music venue, and for a few hours, there was magic in the air.

Carl Newman knows the long history of the space well. He has read the book Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era, and his own band's songs have a sense of energy that's vibrant and vital and meant for repeat listens, as the girl group era's great singles were. The talent in this band is abundant; each member has his or her own musical project on the side (or in the case of synth player Blaine Thurier, a filmmaking project). Singer Neko Case has a very creative and popular canon of solo works and has played with many other musicians, including Jakob Dylan, Nick Cave and Andrew Bird. Songwriter Dan Bejar has put out many albums as Destroyer, including 2011's Kaputt, maybe his most loved. The list goes happily on.

Seeing this group of musicians on one stage is always a joy, and seeing them on this makeshift stage in a venue as special as the Brill Building was unforgettable. They played songs from each of their six albums together, performing many of the songs from Brill Bruisers for the first time. To paraphrase the most famous of the Brill Building songwriters, the husband and wife team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, we thank The New Pornographers for making this "a lasting treasure, not simply a moment's pleasure."

Set List
  • "Moves"
  • "Myriad Harbour"
  • "Dancehall Domine"
  • "The Laws Have Changed"
  • "War On The East Coast"
  • "Twin Cinema"
  • "Fantasy Fools"
  • "Mass Romantic"
  • "Spidyr"
  • "Brill Bruisers"
  • "Backstairs"
  • "Testament To Youth In Verse"
  • "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk"
  • "The Bleeding Heart Show"

Producers: Mito Have-Evans, Bob Boilen; Event Manager: Saidah Blount; Videographers: Christopher Parks, Maia Stern, A.J. Wilhelm; Audio Engineers: Dan Seiders, Kevin Wait; Lighting Director: Marc Janowitz; Special Thanks: The Brill Building; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann

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