Saturday, September 29, 2007

"The Jerry Springer of Indie Rock": The National Hits Up The Grand Ballroom

Tonight current New Yorkers (and former Cincinnatians) The National took the stage at the Regency Grand Ballroom to play to a sold out crowd. Throughout the set, the band firmly avoided their first two records, and before "Daughters of The Soho Riots" lead singer Matt Berninger even stated "This is off our first album, which is actually our third.". So, needless to say, the band's position on old material seemed clear.

The set was a tight, well orchestrated demonstration of the song structure that defines much of The National's sound: steadily building energy based around Berninger's vocals, ending in a chaotic frenzy of instrumentation. The mellower moments were fewer and further between. However, the slower, more quiet moments really gave the band a chance to shine.

The subtle interplay between the band members, and the clarity of the arrangements, really allows one to see how much consideration is given to these arrangements. Moreover, even when the band rocks out, it has a distinct feel of being controlled chaos.

I would have liked to have seen more actual chaos, and Berninger seemed to be doing his damnedest to make it happen. At times it almost seemed like there was a struggle interior to the band as to which way the show would go. Ultimately it fell somewhere in between: The band delivered solid, well conceived performances, while Berninger destroyed mic stands and screamed his lungs out.

For the encore, opener St. Vincent joined the band for an (unfortunately) quiet vocal contribution to "Green Gloves". The band then launched into an extreme and rowdy "Mr. November", which saw Berninger climbing the PA stacks, over the crowd barriers, and ultimately ending the show in the middle of the crowd. With a flourish he was back on stage, and the band was out the door.

Setlist:
Start A War
Mistaken For Strangers
Secret Meeting
Brainy
Baby, We'll Be Fine
Slow Show
Lit Up
Squalor Victoria
Abel
All The Wine
Racing Like A Pro
Ada
Apartment Story
Daughters Of The Soho Riots
Fake Empire
About Today
----------------------------
Green Gloves (feat. St. Vincent)
Mr. November

More photos available at the h.a.d flickr feed

The National "Boxer" Video Site

4 comments:

Percival McChumchum said...

Sorry, but this is a lousy review. This show had numerous obvious problems, none of which you mention.

First, the sound at the Regincy was terrible. Vocals were clipping during the first several songs and the bass was extremely muddy, to the point where it was embarassing. I last saw the National at Bimbo's and it was almost like seeing a different band.

Of course, that could also be because of the internal band struggle you reference. The cause, of course, was that Berninger was drunk, drunk, drunk. After he accidently stomped on a cue, we seriously wondered if he'd make it through the set -- which it seemed that he almost didn't, at one point mumbling something about drinking too much rum (?) and then proceeding to pour all of his drink out on the stage. Other members of the band seemed visably angered. After leaving the stage, it was unclear if Berninger was going to return for the encore (it seems that Berninger was probably having a band meeting with the drummer, who also walked on late).

Anyway, the show wasn't nearly as consistent or coherant as other shows of theirs I've seen. Somewhat sad.

sfmusic said...

Well, I guess I ignored the sound because the Grand's sound is always pretty muddy - I was up front so I was more getting the monitor mix.

Sad about Berninger - I thought that might be it, but I didn't want to over hypothesize.

Arlen said...

I second the comment about the shitty sound. The kick and bass were up way too high, vocals clipped all night. I wanted to punch the sound guy in the face by the end of the show.

Andrea said...

I was on the oposite side of the stage. I obeyed the tickets and didn't bring in my camera, so thanks for sharing your images.