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Friday, December 15

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« Lollapalooza 2010 Recap: Saturday, August 7th The Arrivals @ Ronny's, 8/12 »

Review Mon Aug 09 2010

Review: The National @ House of Blues, 8/7

There was a time just a few years ago when the National were a wildly sporadic live band. They'd play a show that left audiences dragging their jaws out of the gig, but the next night (and maybe the one after that, too) would leave people scratching their heads thinking, "What's the big deal with these guys?" However, it appears that they have finally learned how to deliver consistently powerful performances.

Even from a relatively soft starter like "Runaway" it was clear that the musicians were in their comfort zone. The Dessner brothers looked relaxed but locked in on their guitars while the Devendorf brothers carried a stunning rhythm section. Longtime accompanist Padma Newsome, Arcade Fire's Richard Parry and two extras on horns, percussion and guitar rounded out the top-notch musicians. The National's wildcard, though, is singer Matt Berninger. When he's on, there are few frontmen who can match his intensity. Through the first half of Saturday's Lollapalooza aftershow, Berninger was in fine form. But "Squalor Victoria" was the turning point. His searing calmness exploded as he screamed the title over and over. On the only pre-Alligator song of the night, he wailed "Available"'s 'why did you dress me down, and liquor me up!?' with startling conviction. And he didn't even need to sing "Abel"'s most famous line, but eclipsed the audience singalong with pure pandemonium.

In some High Violet press it's been discussed that there is bit of a divide between Berninger and the rest of the band during the recording process. But none of that is evident on stage where their camaraderie shines. On Saturday they joked about depressing subject matter in raging songs, Berninger giggling through them, and established musicians who "are never going to get anywhere as a musician in a band" (in regard to Parry being late). When a band has such fun on stage, the feeling trickles into the audience to a point where only ridiculously drunk kids with enormous backpacks can dampen the enjoyment. (Luckily, HOB's utilitarian security took care of business.)

A majestic "Fake Empire" closed the initial set before the band returned with a 4-song encore highlighted by Berninger treating speakers like the Matterhorn during "Mr November." They ended the evening on a "Terrible Love" that put the recorded version to shame. The riffs were punchy (4 guitars!) and the percussion was abrasive. If a band's going to close a show with an album opener, they'd better do it the right way. From now on, I won't be doubting the National on such matters.

 
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mp / August 14, 2010 7:20 PM

As someone standing directly in front of you, I completely agree!

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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