Originally Published In The Daily Free Press on 9/19/11
If anybody has been religiously reading my Free Press articles starting from my dark days as a lowly “Blog Contributor” to present day as big shot “Music Editor,” then you could probably tell that I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with The National and that missing out on seeing them has been one of the biggest regrets of my life.
In a Coachella preview from January 19th, I write: “Seeing baritone vocalist Matt Berninger get tipsy off white wine, singing the plight of middle-aged men over the Dessner twins’ intricate backing music and Bryan Devendorf’s elaborate drumming would be the perfect tonic to my melancholia after missing out on seeing these transplanted Ohio rockers last year.” Yes, a hypothetical blurb on how great it would be to see that National live…what a cruel assignment. Furthermore, in May I wrote that the show I was most bummed about missing was Arcade Fire with The National supporting and this September I wrote in the matriculation issue that the band’s upcoming show was one of the must see concerts of first semester.
Well, it has finally it happened. No longer do I have to write longingly of seeing the National as if some 14 year old undersexed girl writing Twilight fan-fiction. Make it known: on September 9th 2011, I saw the National. Readers can finally take a sigh of relief.
But first let me write a few lines on the opener, Yo La Tengo. Guitarist Ira Kaplan made simultaneous love and hate to his guitar, at one point suspending the guitar from a string as he vigorously shook it as if he were a bully trying to wring out the last few quarters. Other times, he would frantically untune his guitar while soloing. It was weird. It was experimental. It was face-melting. See them.
However, for as great as YLT was, The National was even better. Playing 21 songs over one hour, forty minutes, this show was everything a fan could want. Not only was the band drawing from all over their catalogue – nine came off their critically-acclaimed 2010 album, High Violet –but also, the band’s witty banter and Matt Berninger’s seemingly-tipsy movements were as entertaining as ever. What was their banter topic of choice? Self-deprecating jokes about the band’s perceived depression, of course.
Even though The National is winding down a tour that has taken them around the globe twice since March 2010, they showed no signs of slowing down. Each of the band’s complex individual parts shone brightly and Matt Berninger’s primal scream was in full force in songs such as “Abel,” “Mr. November,” and “Available.” Other highlights include the pounding “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” the cathartic “England,” and the serene “Fake Empire.” It was also entertaining to see songs such as “Son” and “Thirsty” – a song that has not been played in five or so years – make it into the set.
However, the highlight of the night was certainly “Terrible Love.” During the song, Berninger ventured into the audience with his never-ending microphone cord and navigated in and out of aisles and on top of seat backs. Alas, as the song drew to and end and as the singer was heading back on stage, he walked right by me and I gave him a reaffirming pat on the back. I’m sure it was everything he’s ever wanted.
2) Anyone’s Ghost
3) Secret Meeting
4) Bloodbuzz Ohio
5) Slow Show
6) Squalor Victoria
7) Afraid of Everyone
8) Conversation 16
11) Cardinal Song
14) Lucky You
16) Fake Empire
18) Mr. November*
19) Terrible Love*
20) About Today*
21) Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks* (Acoustic sing-a-long)
* = Encore