Monday, June 11, 2007

The National @ The 400 Bar(06.08.07)

I knew I was in for a treat heading into the sold out 400 Bar on Friday to see The National, what with their new album ‘Boxer’ already leading the way on my best of ’07 list, added to the fact that they were playing such a tiny venue (considering they had just done a sold out 5 night residency at the Bowery Ballroom in New York just last month). And what a treat it was, with the band sounding in fine form, apparently intoxicated due to friends in the crowd buying them too many drinks, and happy to be back at the 400 Bar because the last time they played there they didn’t make the Sullivan’s any money. The show started out with the slow burner ‘Start A War,’ and, after working through a little sound problem with the speakers, turned things up a notch with a beautiful rendition of ‘Slow Show’, one of my favorites from ‘Boxer.’ The Brooklyn band, which features two sets of brothers (the Devendorf’s on bass and drums, and the Dessner’s on guitars) and lead singer Matt Berninger, seemed to dwarf the miniscule stage at the 400, especially considering that their albums’ orchestral arranger Padma Newsome was there playing violin and keyboards. But that addition made their sound more rich and resonant, sending their somber sounds off the back wall and back again, filling the bar with their tales about love, loss, and liquor. Their new songs have a spare elegance to them that really translates well live, letting the benign baritone of Berninger’s lyrics linger while the music takes you in another direction entirely. The band doesn’t have a whole lot of stage presence (maybe because there wasn’t a whole lot of room up there), preferring to let the music be the focus, but they can be funny when they want to be, teasing Matt about falling over the drum kit, telling the crowd they would need to confiscate all their cameras and cell phones, lest his stumble would show up on the Internet. But the music was what we were all there for, and the songs were sublime. We were treated to almost the entirety of ‘Boxer’ and a healthy chunk of ‘Alligator’, as well as choice older tracks ‘Wasp’s Nest’ and ‘About Today,’ which was part of a solemn but poignant encore that included the impassioned ‘Green Gloves,’ which finally caused the annoying girl next to me to stop talking. We were all speechless. It was a glorious way to end a show where the music and lyrics were the focus, and the band delivered on the promise of one of the best albums of the year with an even better live show.

Erik T.


Start a War
Slow Show
Secret Meeting
Apartment Story
Wasp's Nest
All The Wine
Squalor Victoria
Mistaken For Strangers
Racing Like A Pro
Guest Room
Daughters Of The Soho Riots
Fake Empire
Mr. November

Green Gloves
About Today