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Old 02-09-2014, 08:51 AM   #691
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The tl;dr version of what follows can be adequately summed up by the lyric "I'm the moron who dances".

We'll start with Mistaken for Strangers. Got in there just in time, got myself a scotch and coke and took a seat in the front row. Who else here has seen it?? I thoroughly enjoyed it... Tom is really funny and I and the crowd laughed out loud at least 10 or 11 times. It's really fascinating, and once it starts getting a bit deeper it's quite emotional as well. There's a few scenes between Matt and Tom that are quite touching, like Matt saying that there were a lot of gigs that no one attended when they were starting out, which gives Tom the inspiration to finish the film. The final scene during a performance of Terrible Love brought a big smile to my face.

So then Matt walks in and walks right past us and takes a seat. Some awkward guy from the local indie station RRR interviews him and then throws it to the crowd. They asked some good questions... you can tell that while Matt loves Tom (he's still living in their garage) they're just too different to ever be best of mates. He talked about loving wine - was stoked when he mentioned that he sometimes puts ice in wine, or mixes white and red, I had him pegged as a wine snob but he's the complete opposite.

Whenever I'm at these things I can't help but ask a question, and because I have no shame it's usually stupid. So I asked him if he listens to much hip-hop and does he like Outkast, and he had a chuckle, and the crowd laughed. He said he doesn't listen to it much - nor does he listen to hardly any music, which surprised me a bit - but yeah, he said he really liked Kendrick's latest. Then he said to me "Outkast are reuniting, aren't they..." and I was like "yeah I'm flying to Coachella to see them" which I immediately regretted saying cos obviously neither he nor anyone in the room would give a shit. But oh well.

Got a cab to the gig, got our spot on the lawn, and I started getting overexcited, telling everyone how amazing The National are live, and how they are one of about 15 acts in my all-time live top five. I'll spoiler the rest for those yet to see them on this tour.

 
The setlist isn't up yet, so I'll try and remember it as best I can.

Don't Swallow the Cap
I Should Live in Salt
Mistaken for Strangers
Sorrow
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Sea of Love
Demons
Hard to Find
Afraid of Everyone
Conversation 16
Squalor Victoria
Need My Girl
This is the Last Time
Abel
Slow Show
Apartment Story
Pink Rabbits
England
Graceless
About Today
Fake Empire

Humiliation
Mr November
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

I'm pretty sure that was all the songs they played... order for the first half is definitely not right. But anyway...

A lot of the lyrics from Trouble Will Find Me mean a great deal to me, with some things I've been going through of late. Don't Swallow the Cap is a great opener, certainly much better than Runaway, which was the opener when I first saw them way back in Jan 2012. Like most National songs, it's just so fucking enjoyable to sing along to... does any band in the world do verses as good as this band?

I Should Live in Salt (if I had not been a dickhead at the screening I would have asked Matt when this ode to his brother began taking shape) was one of my favourite tracks on first listen but it's slipped a bit in recent times. Still a great track. Mistaken for Strangers, well we all know how good this song is. His vocals don't seem quite as deep on this track. Stunning stuff, as per usual.

Bloodbuzz Ohio... when I first saw The National back in Jan 2012, I was a very casual fan. Bonnie put Looking for Astronauts on her DI list the year previous, and I really dug it, and then ended up digging the "rockier", more upbeat tracks on Alligator, so Abel and Mr November primarily, plus Secret Meeting, Lit Up, All the Wine. I quite enjoyed High Violet and so bought a ticket to see them in Jan 2012... and when they played Bloodbuzz I started choking up a bit... that was probably the first moment that I was like, okay, these guys are pretty fucking awesome. Just so much urgency to the song (to every fucking song they've ever done, thanks to the best motherfucking drummer in rock music) and that underlying sense of anxiety, just tremendous stuff.

Sea of Love was fucking wicked, and gave us our first screams of the night. I have to say, they are immensely satsifying, and if nothing else, Trouble Will Find Me gave us another solid two or three screams... the first two times I saw them Squalor Victoria, England, Abel and Mr November were the only scream moments. Seemed to be over really quickly, which is the only possible complaint I could have about the night. That chorus is so fucking good.

Demons... the guitar tone is quite different live, and it was probably the only song for which I could say it didn't click quite as great as I'd have liked, but I mean still it was amazing. The lyrics are incredible, I really love that Matt mixes some serious anxiety shit with a bit of humour. Again, a great chorus and the crowd loved it.

I was STOKED they played Hard to Find, I honestly thought it was a rarity on this tour. Was the first of two moments tonight where I got a bit choked up. So simple, but so affecting. When Bryan and the horns start coming in, and in steps up a gear about halfway through, with that arpeggio (am I using this wrong??) guitar after the "hard to find..." lines, it's just gorgeous. "I'm not holding out for you, but I'm still watching for the signs..." is probably my favourite line on the whole album, and it was a really nice moment. A few people probably used it as a toilet/bar song, but it was pretty special for me.

Afraid of Everyone is one of my absolute favourite National songs, it just builds so fucking well. The backing "ohhh"s, again, the awesome verses, those anxious little guitar stabs after Matt stops singing, Bryan coming in... and then it just reaches an absolutely incredible conclusion, "your LIES are swallowing my soulsoulsoulsoulsoul..." I've seen it three times now, and it's been an absolute highlight everytime. Fucking amazing.

I THINK THE KIDS ARE IN TROUBLE... is Conversation 16 the greatest song on High Violet? No, but it's still awesome, and the "IIIIIIIIIIII'MMMM EVIIIIILLLL" refrain is a lot of fun. Those of us who have seen Squalor Victoria live know what it's all about. Not much else to say except that no National gig should ever take place without it. Every single National song improves live tenfold in my opinion (and that's not a knock on the awesome album versions) but Squalor Victoria improves like 50 times over. Phenomenal.

I Need My Girl (as well as Hard to Find and About Today) is all the proof you ever need that slower, quieter songs can be astonishing live. It's really something when Matt mumbles "I need my girl" over the contemplative, slow-burning music. Powerful stuff.

THIS IS THE LAST TIME is my favourite song from Trouble Will Find Me, and probably my favourite National song. It strikes an unbelievable balance between upbeat indie rock and melancholy indie rock. That guitar at the start, coupled with "ohh don't tell anyone I'm here/I got tylenol and beer" when Bryan comes in has made me smile from the first time I heard it. Just magic. But soon, the tune changes. It starts with "I won't be vacant anymore / I won't be waiting anymore", which to me has a similar feel to it as the "I won't let the psychos around" from All the Wine... to me it's always felt like a defence mechanism in a way... like Matt is trying to, as he says to Tom in Mistaken for Strangers, "fake it" in the face of self-doubt. And then of course it breaks down and turns into a pretty melancholy tune. And I love to know if anyone else feels the same way I do about it - I honestly think it's fucking remarkable that the mood changes so dramatically, but it feels completely and totally natural. I really can't think of another band who could pull that off. I started choking up during those final moments. Those final lines.... "Jenny I am in trouble / can't get these thoughts out of me / Jenny I'm seeing double / I know this changes everything / it takes a lot of pain..." they are just devastatingly powerful.

Abel followed (I think) and I was actually struck by the thought that I haven't listened to it in fucking ages. It was fucking wild, as always, I had so much fun jumping up and down like an absolute idiot and screaming the chorus. The Slow Show-Apartment Story combo followed. These are two songs that I have actually never been a huge fan of (my favourite four Boxer tracks are the first four) but yeah, they're both amazing songs and damn, it's impossible to feel bad when Apartment Story is on. Slow Show has got this added horn part live, which elevates well above the studio version.

From Apartment Story on, they could have finished the main set on any of those songs, such were their awesomeness. But Pink Rabbits was up next. The piano is a little bit softer live, I feel like, but it doesn't take away from the track at all. Again, another of my absolute favourites from the new album, and just like This is the Last Time, it just goes into the stratosphere when the tune changes slightly with "now I only think about Los Angeles when the sound kicks out..." that final minute or so is so beautiful live, and I was just staring at the night sky breaking up, again.

England is just flat-out one of the best songs you'll ever hear. From the moment the piano begins at the start you know you are going to be taken to a pretty awesome place... and that horn blast which signifies the crescendo is one of the most thrilling moments at a National gig. AFRAID OF THE HEIGHTS STAY THE NIGHT WITH THE SINNERS AFRAID OF THE HEIGHTS STAY THE NIGHT WITH THE SINNERS AFRAID OF THE HEIGHTS COS THEY'RE DESPERATE TO ENTERTAIN

Graceless was up next, and the guitar tone again is a bit different to the album version. It definitely seems a little more upbeat during the choruses. Considering this was their biggest song off the album in Australia, it didn't quite go off as several of the other songs did, but it still obviously rocked the fuck out, particularly towards the end as Matt starts screaming once again. About Today is as beautiful as ever, and as always a great improvement on the already-stunning studio version, particularly with that huge outro.

Fake Empire never fails to get the crowd swooning and singing, and the trumpeter gets a massive cheer when he takes over. The encore started with Humiliation, another song I fucking adore... I knew there was a big outro coming but I never listened to any of the live versions, hoping to see it for myself in person, and it was as wicked as expected. Mr November, no words needed, just as fucking awesome as the first two times I saw it, god I love belting out that chorus. Terrible Love seemed even better than it did the first two times I saw it, it is seriously an absolute beast live, and is probably the most popular song here... he walked on top of the crowd - a pretty great effort considering everyone was standing - and the closing minute or so was just incredible. And then yeah.... Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. I know the acoustic, a capella rendition of it has some critics on this forum, but I am so fucking glad they kept it from the High Violet tour. After two hours of high-octane awesomeness it is just such a special, unique and moving way to finish the gig, with the whole band in a line of sorts, and Matt stopping singing after the first chorus. Just so, so, so beautiful and fitting, and the crowd harmonises so well, I love that 95% of the audience knows the words off by heart.


I was singing the whole way home.

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Old 02-09-2014, 04:25 PM   #692
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One of their Sidney shows is streaming in YouTube.

Live At The House: The National (Full Set) - YouTube
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Old 02-09-2014, 06:39 PM   #693
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A review of sorts. Very envious of Cobbler that I didn't attend the Mistaken for Strangers screenings with Matt and his Q&A. I did give it some thought.

Did you end up asking him for a lift to the gig, Cobble?

 


My ticket for last night was purchased six months ago or so. I was quite content to go by myself (I'm the only proper National fan that I know) and it was already impossible to purchase two tickets for the front section of the Music Bowl. I'd never been to an artist-specific show at the venue (unless you count Play School when I was 3 years of age), only festivals. I'm very glad that I did purchase a ticket for the front section (an extra $20 or so) as the grassy GA area appeared far too littered with casuals who would ridiculously forkout $10 for a beer, swaying to songs that they don't really know and only recognise Graceless from a JJJ party that they went to a fortnight earlier.

To be honest, the audience at last night's show (even in the front section) was pathetic. Appreciative, but hardly fans of the band. Just those with a lazy $120 spare.

Confusion reigned as to what to do with the seats stretching right up to stage. Prior to the The National, there was a rush of sorts to the barrier, and there was room for about 5 rows of standing fans. I didn't really know what to expect. I suppose it would have been nice to join those 5 rows but by the time I decided that it would have been nice, it didn't seem worth it.

I was extremely fortunate that my allocated seat (which there was no policing of or any strict obligation to retain) was in a super position - back row of the seated area, but on on the aisle, looking inward at the stage from the right. The aisle served to give me a marvellously unimpeded view of the show for it's entirety. All members of the band were in clear view and I was able to enjoy the light show to the full extent.

I wasn't overly ready for it when the band took the stage. It was still daylight, people were still moving around and chatting away and I'm not sure about Don't Swallow The Cap as an opener. The opening trio of songs, which included a personal favourite of mine, Mistaken for Strangers, didn't excite me much to be honest.

Things turned around quickly though and as the sun finally set, the set finally shone. We were treated to performances of Bloodbuzz Ohio and Sorrow, both extremely powerful live, especially the former.

As someone who has been indifferent to Berninger's screaming on various You Tube videos, I have now backflipped after experiencing it live. Sea of Love is probably my favourite song from the latest album and was a utter highlight last night. A thumping rendition (complete with moderate screaming) that was incredible to see. I've always enjoyed Afraid of Everyone. Not exceptionally so, but this is a song that really gains something live - complimented by the screaming, which by now I am urging on for almost every song where it would work, and my word, did it work for songs like Squalor Victoria and England (which was actually probably the most enthusiastically-received song by the fair weather crowd).

The set was a quarter-of-a-ton songs in length, and unfortunately my memory of some songs is hazier than others. I struggle to recall much of I Need My Girl and Hard To Find. I remember myself being engrossed in Bryce Dessner playing around with two guitars during This Is The Last Time, creating some really impressive, but purposeful sounds.

Slow Show didn't resonate much with the audience but certainly did with me, particularly when it kicked into the "...29 years..." where it became quite thunderous and truly exhilarating. Humiliation, when it opened the encore, went to a whole new level where the pretty final minute of the studio version was superseded by a screaming end to the song. I doubt that this fantastic song will return for future tours so was very chuffed to have seen it live and in-person on this tour.

Pink Rabbits was beautiful, expectedly. I half expected that Betty Draper may appear on the screen after GAF suggested that the song may be about her, but also no.

Graceless was the song most people were seemingly there for, and Matty Berninger was edging closer to the audience, plopping his mic stand off stage and singing into the faces of the front row. The song was slightly disappointing live I thought.

Fake Empire was a pearler of a main-set closer. It is a monster live, and when the brass kicks in, it really is something.

Matt Berninger spent most of Terrible Love and Mr November amongst the crowd, he and his mic cord snaking their way surprisingly freely through the aisles. I lost sight of him. Nek minnet, there he is with his blond shag staggering up the aisle in my direction vowing that he "won't fuck us over". It was a lie, as just before he had a chance to come within a metre of where I was, he deviated left and moved away from me through another of the aisles.

He was seemingly floating over the first three rows during Terrible Love, and somehow he manages to hold on to his microphone and sing quite coherently throughout both songs.

The night culminated in Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, a song that I doubted, but certainly delivered as a live closer. All performers made their way to the front of the stage, and it was actually one of the best sing alongs that I have ever experienced.

As the crowd streamed out of the Music Bowl, everyone seemed quite impressed with the entertainment that The National had provided them with that night. I was actually quite sad that the show was over and that I had to get up early for work the next morning. My unrealistic and unrealisable intent was to follow The National to wherever the next stop was on their tour. It was that impressive a show that it would have been well worth the costs.




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Old 02-09-2014, 07:36 PM   #694
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Haha nah. We got a cab reasonably quickly. I actually thought the crowd was really good, but I was probably too caught up in my own world to really notice or care. Can't wait to see them again in April.
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Old 02-09-2014, 11:55 PM   #695
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Also: Tom looks like a fat Joel Edgerton.
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Old 02-10-2014, 12:23 PM   #696
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saw the stream of the sydney show last night on youtube.. so awesome!
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Old 02-10-2014, 12:26 PM   #697
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Nice reviews guys. The setlists haven't changed during the tour I see but they're pretty good so that doesn't really matter. It amazes me how many good songs they have when I see those setlists. One or two extra Alligator/Sad Songs tracks wouldn't hurt though.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:33 PM   #698
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I mean, they have 6 albums and they're still playing 7 out of the 11 songs on High Violet, an album they're not even supporting. Yeah, more pre-Boxer material would be great. Only three songs from those three albums combined.

But they're so great live it barely matters, to be honest.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:45 PM   #699
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See I think High Violet and Trouble are their best two albums, by a fair way. There's usually five from Boxer, it seems, and they're the best five. And Abel and Mr November are the yep best from Alligator so I find it pretty hard to complain.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:56 PM   #700
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As much as I loved High Violet when I first heard it and still love it now, I've come around to Alligator as my favorite. It has the most range and ultimately the most depth of emotion as well.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:57 PM   #701
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Boxer
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:02 PM   #702
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your mind is racing like a pronoun
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:07 PM   #703
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Boxer has the consistency and it was my introduction to the band. Plus, the one-two punch at the beginning is one of the best ever. Basically, it's stellar.

Alligator is exactly what I wish they would sound like today. It's the perfect mix of the old and new. Lots of heartbreakers, as well as some of their best rockers. I don't love every track, but it's awesome.

The Nash has been riding the fine line between sublime and dull for the last couple of albums, with TWFM having the variety to pull it off. Rockers like Sea of Love and pitch black ballads like Exile Vilify (more than album worthy) have been the highlights of their discography as of late. Fewer midtempo tracks on the next album would be ideal, but that's who they are now. The last two album covers have been grey, which suits them.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:01 PM   #704
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Those criticisms you level against the last two I would say about Boxer. The opening two tracks are obviously incredible, but honestly, from then on, they ride a fine line between sublime and dull. Just about every other track on the album is mid-tempo. I still like most of the tracks, but of the four I've heard Boxer is my least favourite.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:11 PM   #705
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Apartment Story tho

And you have to take Boxer in context: at the time, they had never made an album like that. The chamber music influences and emphasis on heartfelt balladry was very fresh and unlike anything else in their discography. It's still the sweetest, quietest album they've ever made, punctured by a couple of their heavier tracks.
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