Though the popularity of supergroup The New Pornographers has likely eclipsed that of any one of its individual members, it’s clear there’s still plenty of discrete talent to be found. Friday night’s one-off show for The Pornos was also the kickoff for singer Kathryn Calder’s debut solo tour, where her charming indie pop opened the show.
Calder, who was introduced to the band largely as a live replacement for a sometimes-unavailable Neko Case, has become an integral member, with her sweetly sunny vocals contrasting nicely with Case’s distinctively feisty delivery.
As a solo artist, her approach is decidedly gentler. Along with her four-piece band, she performed songs from her debut album, Are You My Mother?, and the tone of the set was adorably awkward, from her self-deprecating demeanor (“I’m not Lady Gaga … I wish,” she said after explaining there would be no costume change between her set and the Pornos’) to her bassist’s grinning attempts at dead-air-filling humor.
Calder’s music isn’t going to take you by the throat and shake you into submission, but the unassuming nature of it doesn’t make it any less lovely. And while most of her songs feature subdued instrumentation, like the lilting piano backing of “Arrow,” she’s also comfortable kicking things up a notch, as seen in the jangly guitar and hand claps of “If You Only Knew.”
Following Calder were Thao and Mirah, also on their own separate tour promoting their recently released, self-titled album. Like Calder and Case, Thao and Mirah are a bit of a study in contrasting female presences, with Thao’s boot-stomping energy and slyly sardonic attitude mixing with the more matter-of-fact Mirah. Mirah has a soaring, incredibly versatile voice while Thao possesses rougher, slightly androgynous vocals buoyed by an anarchic sense of play.
Fresh off a border visit where an incredulous border patrol wanted to know about their “all-girl” band — Thao told him it was a cross between Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks, she said — the pair showed just how well their distinct styles coalesce. Whether in a back-and-forth number like “How Dare You,” the Mirah-centric “Hallelujah,” or a jazzed-up rendition of Thao’s “Feet Asleep,” complete with electric violin, Thao and Mirah demonstrated themselves to be a perfect musical match.