I am going to make a prediction now. I realize there is still a month and a half left in 2010, but there is no way any concert coming up is going to top seeing The National on this evening. What an incredible performance!
I apologize for taking so long to post this, I have been hard at work doing content work for some clients. I’ll be honest, it is hard to get motivated to write about fun stuff like a killer concert after hours staring at the laptop writing structured content for others. I know it is no excuse, just saying.
The National came on my radar a few years ago when my friend Bobby Lerma from The Father Figures burned a couple of songs from Alligator onto a compilation he made for me to check out. The band did not click with me then for whatever reason. Fast forward to 2010 and the release of High Violet. Thanks to Aaron Kes from The Other 49 and Brendan Murphy from Source Victoria staying on me about how great the band is, I reluctantly bought the album. A few days later I was ready to punch myself in the face for taking so long to get it. This band is incredible on record.
However, as good as the studio output from The National is, it is nothing compared to the stunning performance the band creates on stage. I had some very high expectations of this band after seeing a few of their live clips on YouTube, plus the live version of “About Today” on The Virginia EP is pretty incredible.
Well, for once a band not only lives up to expectations live, The National far surpassed them in this case! The Marquee is not the best venue in town in regards to crystal clear sound quality, but the sound was outstanding on this evening. I have to credit that to the band. The brother combinations of Aaron and Bryce Dessner on guitars and Scott and Bryan Devendorf on bass and drums respectively played with impeccable precision, while the baritone delivery of vocalist Matt Berninger was unbelievable. This five-piece was fully complemented with additional musicians on the horns and the strings, adding an outstanding power and beauty to the performance.
I may be wrong, and if anyone at the show can verify this please do, but I believe The National played all but one track from High Violet. My favorite song from the album “Sorrow” sounded amazing live, while “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, “Conversation 16” and particularly “England” were phenomenal gems from the album played during this concert.
Plenty of material was played from their 2007 release Boxer as well. “Mistaken for Strangers” is my favorite tune from The National and received an outstanding response from the crowd, while the album’s outstanding opener “Fake Empire” was a monster of a tune delivered live.
The band was so impressive from the beginning of the show to the stunning encore that it is difficult to pick out a single, ultimate moment from the concert. However, two songs really stand out in my mind from this evening. The first is that unbelievable delivery of “Squalor Victoria” from Boxer, one of my favorite songs from that album. The opening sequence on the drums and piano led to Berninger’s stellar delivery on vocals, complemented beautifully by the rest of the band’s subdued power. At some point of the song Matt Berninger, at least in his mind, “fucked up” and said so to the crowd. That led to Berninger pacing the stage like a caged animal, screaming the lyrics to the end of the song while the band kept pace with his intensity, almost destroying their instruments due to playing so hard and with such unbridled passion. This has to be one of the live moments of the year for shows in Arizona!
The other song that absolutely blew my mind was the opener from High Violet, “Terrible Love”. I must admit, after hearing an interview the band did with NPR about this song and how it had evolved into something special live, I was really looking forward to seeing what they would do live with the track. No way was I expecting the band to take a very tranquil, subdued track and transform it into the powerful song it is live. The band ramps up the intensity of the song by tweaking the structure, and Berninger delivered some of his most passionate vocals of the night during this track. Stepping off the stage during “Terrible Love”, Berninger sang half the tune while walking through the crowd. How incredible it was to see the appreciative crowd respond the way it should, parting like the Red Sea to allow him to travel all the way to the back of the Marquee Theatre unmolested and eventually make his way back onstage toward the end of the song. You had to watch him as he walked through the crowd, but anyone keeping their eyes on the rest of the band would have been blown away by how hard they were playing at that point. What an amazing moment, and how awesome is it that The National delivered two of the best live moments onstage in Arizona in 2010!
The concert ended with a beautiful, acoustic rendering of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”, complete with Berninger leading the audience through the song while he sang without using his microphone. Admittedly, the crowd sounded terrible ;-), but the effort was there and it was a joyous way to end a spectacular evening.
Best Rock Concert of 2010 – guaranteed. Now I just have to decide by December if it topped The Two Towers live at Radio City Music Hall October 8. It is going to be a tough choice.
Remember folks, a reissue of High Violet comes out November 22. The reissue will have two unreleased songs, some B-sides and live tracks, but most important, a different version of “Terrible Love”. Watch this video of the new version of “Terrible Love”, I think you will agree it very well could be the most epic track of the year.