Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The National | Le National | Oct 7

In a significant contrast to The Capstan Shafts show on Saturday night, I went up to Montreal on Sunday to see The National at Le National Theater. Where one show was small, acoustic and intimate featuring an artist at the start of his concert career, the other show was a band at their peek playing a loud raucous show before a packed club.

Unfortunately, I screwed up and didn't realize Doveman was opening the show. So, I missed their set because I arrived only ten minutes before The National hit the stage. If I had known they were the opener, I would have made a point to get there in time to hear their dark gentle tunes.

Since I was late, I had no chance of getting close but I tried to move up the right side to get a better view. Unfortunately, when the band hit the stage I realized that I was about four feet from the tower of speakers. Between the miserable sound mix this created and the certain hearing damage it would generate, I retreated to the back of the room after the first two tunes.

photo courtesy of gen i us.

Most of the set was from Alligator and Boxer, as expected. Here's the setlist, courtesy of the folks at Trendwhore (they may be posting mp3 files of the show at some point; so keep checking back there):

01 Brainy
02 Secret Meeting
03 Mistaken For Strangers
04 Baby We'll Be Fine
05 Slow Show
06 Squalor Victoria
07 Abel
08 Wasp Nest
09 All The Wine
10 Racing Like A Pro
11 Apartment Story
12 Daughters of the SoHo Riots
13 Fake Empire
14 About Today
15 Start A War


16 Cold Girl Fever
17 Green Gloves
18 Mr November

photo courtesy of x2asj.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and Boxer will likely be my favorite album of the year. Having said that, I have two bones to pick with the show.

1) The National are in the midst of a long run of sold out shows that covers a number of months. With that solid of a fan base, a band should feel a certain amount of freedom to experiment with and re-work some of their songs. However, with the exception of a few extended feedback sessions, they played everything largely how they recorded it. I think they should use some of the freedom that comes with financial security to reinterpret some of their songs and progress their craft.

2) The last time I saw Matt Berninger, the lead singer for the band, he was storming off the stage, out the door and down the street at the Iron Horse in Northampton. It was kind of a jerky move to leave his band stranded on the stage without their singer. However, the guy's dark, brooding persona gave the whole performance a dramatic edge.

Conversely, it appears that a pair of successful albums and a long run of packed houses has brighten Berninger's disposition because he was perky sunshine on stage in Montreal. He was laughing, joking with the crowd, smiling and trying on sunglasses from the front row. I'm happy for the guy that he's found some peace with his soul. However, I also can't deny that it takes a bit of a spark away from the show.

I still enjoyed the show despite those two items though. And it appeared that the crowd loved it. People were jumping around, singing along and on the way out, I heard one guy say to his friend, "Fucking genius, man!" So, it didn't seem to impact their feelings for the show either.

One last note, I think the border agents are becoming increasingly suspicious of my brief three-hour trips to Montreal. The questions are getting more and more detailed and are being asked with an increasingly surly tone. On the way in, I was asked what I did for a living, what company I work for and where they were located. Then the agent quickly mixed in, "Do you have $10,000 in the car?" On the way back, the border agent asked me where the concert was, what street the club was located on, what were the cross streets and what roads I took to get to and from the club.

If this blog ever fails to get updated following a show in Montreal, will someone please contact a lawyer for me? Thanks.


ryan the duke said...

haha, great post!

i crossed the border this weekend and was only asked what i did for a living.. but i hate when they throw weird shit at you.

i thought it was a great show. a friend of mine loaned me a minidisc recorder, so i should have the recording up tomorrow night. thanks for the link!

Will said...

Spot on...seen them twice now, and while they're incapable of leaving me cold, they'll never stray from the script and are almost too disciplined in that regard.