the national marymoor.jpg
The awesome Laura Musselman
The National

Marymoor Park

Saturday, Sept. 11

This just in: Saturday night's the National show at Marymoor was the worst the


Live Review: The Worst the National Show I've Ever Seen!*

the national marymoor.jpg
The awesome Laura Musselman
The National

Marymoor Park

Saturday, Sept. 11

This just in: Saturday night's the National show at Marymoor was the worst the National show I've ever seen. (*Gasps!*) (*Shouts of "traitor!"*) And yet it was still a damn fine concert. So what gives?

Not being one of those regular contributin' types to Reverb, I don't have to pretend to know about nor care about every kind of music. You want me to listen to Hungary's first and only calypso band just because they're opening at the Showbox? Fuck. Off. YOU listen to that ear cancer. I've got newsy crap to write.

But the National? I know me some the National.

The five boys from Brooklyn by way of Cincinnati are one of the few bands I legitimately nerd-out on. And yes, I hopped on the bandwagon well before this year's Billboard-charting High Violet and that excellent New York Times Magazine article.

(Although I did read it twice. Did you know that the band nicknamed lead singer Matt Berninger "Mumbleberry Pie" because of his baby-soothing baritone? Well? DIDYA?! Jesus I'm insufferable.)

I got my start with the National three albums ago, when they released Alligator in 2005. I had just gone through something that the 22-year-old version of myself was not equipped to deal with emotionally.

You could say my mind was not right (MY MIND WAS NOT RIGHT MY MIND WAS NOT RIGHT) and that listening to that cathartic fucking masterpiece of an album all day every day made it a little more so. Or you could say I'm the kind of sensitive white guy who would've eaten up the National's sensitive white guy shit no matter what crappy crap had just happened to me. IT'S YOUR WORLD, BUSTER.

Anyway. The concert.

As should be clear by now, I'm not gonna talk much about opener Okkervil River. Know that song "No Key, No Plan"? They did that one. That was nice. There's your review.

As for the National, this is the reason why it was the worst of the five or so shows I've seen: for the first time they failed to match what was on the record.

I know that's sort of a "no duh" thing to say. But it's true. Before the Marymoor show, every time I'd seen the National they sounded just like the recorded version, only live-r, louder and better.

So why didn't they this time? I'm going to chalk it up to two things.

1) Ambition. High Violet has some seriously beautiful ethereal background vocals. When the National are at full-strength -- meaning when they're performing with Sufjan Stevens and another backing vocalist -- they can recreate those haunting melodies you hear on songs like (personal album fave) "Conversation 16." Take those weapons away and you have a merely good, not great, rendition.

(And yes, I know Sufjan is probably too busy writing a 21-song ode to South Dakota to do back-up vocals. Not trying to sound spoiled...and probably failing.)

2) Venue. Marymoor is outdoors. All the other places I'd seen the National before weren't. Lying on a picnic blanket is great. But you can't hope to recreate the sweaty intimacy of a club when the sound is allowed to dissipate into the surrounding firs and them there night stars are so gosh darn pretty and distracting.

As for what actually got played: besides "Abel" and "Mr. November" all the songs came from Violet and 2007's Boxer. Minus one. A deep cut that I -- ARGH! NERD POWERS FADING! -- still can't name. (Little help, fellow dweebs?)

As for who was there: people with Baby Bjorns. I'm just now coming to grips with the fact that my favorite band may or may not specialize in dad rock. Stupid kid-friendly venues.

As for what you need to take-away from this review: again, worst the National show I've ever seen. And still one of the best I've ever seen. Do with that what you will.


comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow