Friday, September 21, 2007

Live Review: The National

9/19/07 - Slowdown - Omaha, NE

Somehow it's comforting when the band you're seeing is as trashed as you are. Or more to the point, the National's Matt Berninger was more trashed than I was at Wednesday's Omaha show (and that, my friends, is saying a lot). There's also something comforting about seeing someone grasp a bottle of wine and down it onstage -- a bit of class meshed with a bit of bum. The National strike me as the types to sip wine while lamenting lost loves, grapes spilling from their pockets, of course. I guess I never took them for white wine drinkers, but I digress.

From the moment the band opened their set with "Start a War" they started a war with my emotions that has been burgeoning for months now. The band's sophomore release Boxer is no slump, slacker, or slouch. Something about Berninger's baritone simultaneously soothes and incites my soul -- I can't relate to waiting twenty-nine years for true love, but I can relate to the feelings of elation, fulfillment, relief. As they played "Slow Show" at the appropriately named venue ("Slow Down"), it occurred to me that perhaps Berninger boozes pre-show to take the edge off the emotional outpouring many of their songs require. Maybe, like me, he's out to have a fucking good time.

And a fucking good time was had. Thankfully these guys know how to croon their way into a lady's heart with slow burners like "Green Gloves" and rock her pants off with wailing rockers like "Abel." Either way, they're getting laid, right? Somebody please tell me these guys are getting laid.

--Femme Fatale, 09/21/07


September 19, 2007

The Slowdown

Omaha, NE


I've gone and done it once again, and put an great album aside when I should be listening to it. Sigh.

When Boxer came out earlier this Spring, I bought it. I listened to it. I enjoyed it, so much so that I thought it was my early favorite for album of the year. Then a little band called Spoon put a new record out, and I moved on, just like that. If you look hard enough at the pictures from last nights concert that were recently posted on Pitchfork, you can see me kicking myself. Repeatedly.

Opener St. Vincent, or Annie Clark since she was all by her lonesome, set the tone early by knocking me flat on my ass. Though my fellow bloggers and I entered the Slowdown a tad bit late, we were treated with a solid solo rendition of "Now Now" upon our arrival. I have to admit that I never got into her album, Marry Me, but seeing Ms. Clark live was a different story. With only a guitar and her voice, the subtleties of the song were fully exposed. The guitar harmonics, without any studio tweaking, stood firm behind her rich, mellow coo, whereas the chord progression that leads to the chorus felt dramatic in the best possible way, as Annie sang into a second microphone with extra effects, giving the lyrics an added emphasis. The next song, which was sadly her last and one that I cannot recall at the moment, was a little more of the same, though this time she played more chords and attacked the strings of her guitar as if she were unaware of her own strength. I wish I knew the album better so I could give a better description, but as it stands I'm left with this sad attempt at an informed review and left with no choice but to kick myself once again.

(Knowing that I missed St. Vincent, or again (probably) Annie solo, playing a show at the Record Bar - which is only two blocks away from my apartment, mind you - last month makes me want to kick myself even harder.


About half-an-hour after Ms. Clark finished her set, The National entered the stage to the music of Yo La Tengo. The song was the under-appreciated "Everyday", a dark, moody piece that would have complemented The National's set perfectly had they not rocked so fucking much. The band took the stage and began with "Start a War". The song builds slowly, much like former tourmates Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's "Details of the War" (hmmm...perhaps intentionally, those silly indie-rockers), though without the Jeff Mangum yelps and harmonica that make up the song's climax. In fact, "Start a War" resolves itself without much of a climax, knowing that there's more to come. On the album, it's the rising "Guest Room", but in concert it was the straight-up-rock of "Mistaken for Strangers." Perfect.

Did I mention that the set fucking rocked? Having never seen the National before, and being more familiar with Boxer than the preceding albums, I expected a mellower affair. It should be noted that I am glad I was wrong. Even though I love Boxer, I've always felt that it was a little restrained. In concert, however, the National unleashed their inner Broken Social Scene, the only things missing were female vocals and high kicks. The National laid it all out on the stage, and by the end as the band reached the closing yells of "Mr. November", even singer Matt Berninger let loose. Well, he let loose by his standards, anyway. Keep in mind that this is a singer who appears to hide from the audience behind his hands while they are wrapped around the microphone - Nicole was on to something when she wrote that he needed pre-show booze - yet at the end he finally appeared comfortable on stage, inching closer to the audience (at one point hovering right over my head) while screaming "I'm Mr. November/I won't fuck this over!" No, Matt, you certainly did not. In fact, you just reminded me what a great band The National is, how great of an album Boxer is, and once again I am kicking myself.


--SonicRyan, 09/21/07


Anonymous said...

WHAT? You went to Omaha?

-Mandy (too lazy to sign in)

Femme Fatale said...

Haha, yeah. I was doped up on meds and boozing it pretty hard, which will likely either stifle my recovery or speed it up. Only time will tell.