The seasoned-frontman-goes-solo shtick is a feat attempted by few, panned by many, and rarely (if ever) more successful than its spawn. That is, unless your name is A.C. Newman. As the leading man for the Canadian-based supergroup The New Pornographers, Newman has helped to pen four wide-ranging, exquisite, and critically lauded albums. He’s also seen fellow bandmates like Neko Case and Dan Bejar become big names in their own right-Case as a beloved alt-country crooner, Bejar as the man behind bands like Destroyer and Swan Lake. It was no wonder then that Newman would indisputably establish his solo worth on Saturday night at SOhO-he’s working alongside and learning from some of the best.
Following awesome sets from both the eccentric Mississippian Dent May and Santa Barbara’s own Coral Sea, Newman hit the stage and immediately launched into the lead track off his recent release, “There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve.” Backed by an impressive cast of musicians (Crooked Fingers’ Miranda Brown and Superchunk’s Jon Wurster were both in the mix), Newman strummed and sang alongside trumpet, violin, and melodica parts that helped to capture his signature lush arrangements. Highlights of the night included the frenetic “Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer,” the waltz-y “Drink to Me Babe, Then,” and the widely popular “On the Table.” And while tracks like the bouncy and instrument-heavy “Submarines of Stockholm” got the crowd jumping, Newman’s star shone just as bright when he ventured out on his own. A brief a cappella close to Get Guilty’s “All My Days and All My Days Off” worked to showcase the frontman’s chops and solidify his place in this newly formed touring collective.
How Newman succeeds where other frontmen fail is simple enough; he’s penning tunes that could just as well be Pornographers material. Unafraid to recognize and embrace his songwriting strengths, Newman’s solo career continues to act as a logical extension of his full-time gig. Here the crafty hooks, pretty instrumentation, slow builds, and powerful harmonization of the Pornographers are still apparent-there’s just a little more Newman thrown into the mix