Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The National at Roy Wilkins Auditorium

I almost didn't go to this show last night. I got hit with a cold Monday night and spent all day Tuesday trying to power through and suck it up because I had bought these tickets back in April and I wanted to go.

When I got home from work I felt completely run down and warm. The thought of standing in one spot at a rock show for 3 hours just did not sound appealing. The thought of walking from wherever we ended up parking to the auditorium didn't even sound manageable. Add the massive thunderstorm that was to roll through at any minute and curling up in my favorite chair and watching the rest of season 3 of Lost sounded like the best decision.

But fear of missing out and not wanting to waste the tickets won out and I am so glad it did.

I am not a fan of The National's new album Trouble Will Find Me. In fact, it might be one of the most disappointing albums I ever remember getting. I love this band and their earlier albums and anticipation was big for this one and it just didn't live up to it. Maybe that's my fault for expecting too much. But it comes across as somewhat tired and repetitive. There are a couple of good moments here and there. Good lines that standout as classical The National lyrics. "Pink Rabbits" is a fairly good song. But for most of it, I can't tell one song from the next. I saw via newspaper reviews this morning, that they played a song off the new album that I specifically called out to my husband that I was surprised they didn't play because it's all over the radio right now. But they did play it. And I didn't even realize it because I can't tell them apart.

But, enough with the negativity.

The show itself was really good. It was nowhere near as good as any of the times I've seen them at First  Avenue. But that's probably more to do with how awful Roy Wilkins is and not so much the band. The sound was just so tinny and muffled. And the lights on the side of the floor highlighting where to buy your popcorn and hotdogs really took away from the vibe.

I was concerned at first that they did seem tired and bored, though. The first couple of songs felt a little lifeless. Not so surprising, they were songs off the new album. Whenever they would tap into their back catalogue, though, their energy seemed to pick up - or maybe the crowd just did. Although, there were definitely people around us who only know them from this latest album. Which is weird.

They brought out Nona Marie, lead from one of my recently favorited bands Dark Dark Dark. Nona is from Minneapolis and got the envy inducing honor of getting to sing on The National's latest album. So they brought her out to sing on a couple of songs last night. Which was cool. Though I couldn't hear her at all.

The National with Nona Marie of Dark Dark Dark.

Side note: While introducing Nona Marie, lead singer Matt Berninger mentioned how a lot of the backing vocals got buried on the album, but not hers because she's awesome. But, when I heard she sang on the album, I listened and listened and couldn't find her anywhere. Her voice is pretty distinctive. But all I can hear in backing vocals is guitarist Aaron Dessner, who sings in a high falsetto anyway.

I had three songs I wanted to hear last night: "Terrible Love", "About Today", and "Apartment Story". The only one I didn't hear was "Apartment Story". Although, as they started playing, all of the songs they have started shooting through my brain and I got super excited about all of the potential song goodness that was to come. They did a lovely rendition of "About Today" - not the epic version I've heard before, but a more subdued one that was chilling and beautiful. "Terrible Love" came during the encore.

And wow, that encore.

There was a couple standing in front of us that, obviously, knew their radio hits and that was it. The girl went nuts for "Conversation 16" ( the one about eating brains and "I am eeeeeevil!") and "England" and a couple of songs off the new album. Every thing else they would either just stand there looking confused or trying to find a beat. I'm not saying that to make fun of them. Just that they left as soon as the first song from the encore started. And, well, you never miss the encore of a show by The National. Really, you should never miss any encore because the best stuff usually happens then. They played a roaring version of "Terrible Love" to my utter delight. They did "Mr. November" complete with Matt Berninger and his ridiculously long microphone cord walking through the crowd all the way to the back screaming about how he "won't fuck us over I'm Mr. November" and then, then they closed the set with a completely acoustic - and I mean acoustic. no mics, unplugged acoustic guitars - version of "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" complete with audience sing along to the whole thing. It was such an interesting way to end the show and really just - I don't know - it was just lovely.

So, yeah. I'm happy I sucked it up and went. And I don't feel worse today, as I expected to. I feel slightly better, actually. I guess music will do that for you.

Also: Daughter opened for them last night. Since I'm sick, I had planned to get there late to limit the length of time I would have to stand around. I don't normally like to miss the opener, because you never know, they may be awesome and if I ever open for someone, I would hope people would show up. But we got there right as they were starting. It might have worked for me in a different setting, but it just sounded like a wall of muffled sound. And that shoe-gazer mope rock was not the pump me up shake this sickness sound that I needed at that time.

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