Saturday, May 22, 2010

On a blood buzz. Yes, I am.

It's wonderful to be able to walk five minutes to a concert venue as I did last night to see the National at the Wiltern. I ate a great meal, hung out at home, read, and just before 10, I walked out of my door and caught a great show.

I hadn't been to a concert in a while. I think my last concert was Chad VanGaalen a year ago. That's quite a comedown from 2007 when I was going to a show, at times, twice a week. Lately I've found that I don't have the energy to stand in a crowded room for hours, and I've also fallen behind on my music listening. However, 2010 is turning out to be a year when old favorites of mine are releasing records. In addition to the National, the last few weeks saw releases from New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene, Josh Ritter, Band of Horses, Beach House, Vampire Weekend--and coming up is a new LCD Soundsystem record and maybe Arcade Fire. It feels like 2007 all over again!

As for last night's show--the National's first of their current tour--it was terrific. The National has gotten huge and are no longer the band that had to play second fiddle to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on a show the National was headlining. High Violet, the terrific new album, debuted at number three on Billboard charts. When I saw them back then at the Troubadour, they weren't the hyped band that Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was, but they displayed an energy and intensity that was galvanizing. At times Matt Berninger's antics seemed more like an affectation, but on the whole it was a rousing experience. Berninger has toned down his mannerisms--some--to allow the drama inherent in the National's best songs to come through. With a voice like one too many drunken, sleepless nights, Berninger is an enthralling interpreter. His voice is tough yet vulnerable, alluring yet cautious, strong yet messy, and with every new album the National has found a way to put his expressive voice to better use.

Boxer and High Violet have fewer all-out rock songs than Alligator. The National have gotten moodier but that's not a bad thing. Last night's show did a great job of pacing the show, slowly building the drama. They opened with "Mistaken for Strangers" and "Afraid of Everyone" and then rocked out a little more with "Bloodbuzz Ohio" then brought it back down to earth again. The engineering was off in the beginning. Berninger's voice was too loud and drowned the music, but the right balance was found soon.

The National reached great heights several times in the show. "Apartment Story," "Terrible Love," "Secret Meeting," "Fake Empire," "Abel," "England" and a few others were standouts. The show never dragged, and even when Berninger affected a rock star moment by crowd surfing while singing "Mr. November" during the encore, the effect was kind of charming. They will be performing a second show at the Wiltern tonight, and if it's not sold out I highly recommend that you check them out.

If not, check out this clip of "Terrible Love" from a concert that aired live on YouTube last week. Yes, that's my husband, Sufjan Stevens, singing background vocals. *sigh*

No comments: