Friday, June 4, 2010

The National at HOB

I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders.

Last night, Ricky and I went to see The National at The House of Blues, with opening act Antlers. Ricky had given me tickets for my birthday. I was quite pumped, as I'm a fan of the band, but also slightly nervous that it'd be a solemn night of sad songs that'd make me want to drink red wine and cry.

Fortunately, I was 100% wrong.

I won't say much about Antlers. They were alright, and packed a huge punch for a shoe gazey trio, but none of their songs were particular stand out. They were what you hope for in an opening act: pretty, a good lead-in, and not too noteworthy.

By the time 9:30 rolled around, HOB was packed with a good mix of people. A lot of thirtysomethings with their girlfriends, a lot of guys in plaid shirts, and even two kids who couldn't have been older than sophomores in college who wore Tokyo Police Club shirts. A varied but respectful and enthusiastic crowd.

The National played primarily from Boxer, as well as some deep cuts. Opening with two tracks from Boxer, the second being Mistaken for Strangers, the crowd was on their side and revved up. The band also punched a lot more energy and showmanship into these and all songs, which was great. Frontman Matt Berninger wafted between introspective singing and jumping all over the stage... and even into the audience on a few occasions. Very little band banter between songs, but that was okay.

The horns and violinist were punched up, and they added layers that you maybe miss when listening onto the CD's. Ricky and I both agreed that they were the unsung heroes of the band and the concert as a whole.

I think two highlights for me were Mr. November and Cherry Tree. Mr. November, which from everything I've seen and heard turns into Matt and band shouting their energy and emotional into the song, was near the end of the night. Matt ended up surfing through the crowd to the sound booth and back. He seemed to be enjoying the set and the crowd most here.

Cherry Tree was a song I wasn't as familiar with, but I love the haunting minor keys and strings, as well as the muffled chorus of "loose lips sink ships". The band joked about this chorus and said they were just mumbling the whole time, and that they weren't actually saying words. It was well performed.

At one point Matt said "respect the sadness", which I think summed up the show as a whole. They know that their songs are a little more somber than other bands, and they embrace it, but they also know they need to punch it up for performances. It definitely had a different vibe from listening only to the albums, and I'd recommend checking them out when they circle back into town, whenever that is.

Here are the two songs I mentioned:
Mr. November

Cherry Tree

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