The National | 6.11.07

national_owyoung2The National's performance was one of those that cemented the devotion of old fans, pulled the new fans down deeper, and introduced curious music lovers to a band that will soon be one of their favorites.

 

 

 

Duck Room, St. Louis, MO

Photos: Todd Owyoung. More photos in Photo Gallery 

Following the late-May release of their fourth album, Boxer, The National seem to be out to prove that they can do more than produce subdued, morose music, albeit the sort full of intrigue, rich lyrics, and beauteous instrumentation. At Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, The National showed that they can put on a good show, spell their occasional sarcasm with an honest presentation, and simply rock the shit.national_owyoung

With drink in hand, vocalist Matt Berninger followed his band mates on stage, brother guitarists Bryce and Aaron Dessner, rhythm brothers Bryan and Scott Devendorf, and multi-instrumentalist/member of The Clogs, Padma Newsome. A bit taller than the Dessner brothers, Berninger stood out at the front of the stage in a short-sleeved button down shirt and tie. If he never sang a note, you might think he was a substitute teacher. Starting softly, the group brought a hush over the crowd with Boxer beauties "Start a War" and "Slow Show," before bringing relief and cheers from a decent crowd of dedicated fans with Alligator opener, "Secret Meeting."

Emotions only built throughout the night's performance, from the band and audience alike. As the hardcore, front-rowers got more lively, the request shouts kept coming, prompting Bryce to say, "This is the most requests we've ever got for songs that we're not gonna do." Of course, the band wouldn't let themselves be that cruel, and after Berninger suggested that oft-shouted "Murder Me Rachael" had been "murdered too many times lately," they busted it out anyway. Another "surprise" for the fans was the scarcely performed "Lucky You," yet the primary set was ruled by fabulous performances of "Apartment Story" and "The Geese of Beverly Road."

Although everything up to this point was phenomenal, nothing could match the crowd's excitement on set closers, "Fake Empire" and "Mr. November," the former of which drew the biggest applause, and seems to be the band's most defining track to date. In terms of showstoppers, nothing gets better than the raw, emotive screams of Berninger on "Mr. November." As the crooner escaped his baritone shell, held his microphone-arm underneath the elbow, and grabbed the rafters, you couldn't help but be on his side when he yelled, "I won't fuck us over!"

The encore began with what Berninger referred to as a "new song," but which turned out to be a pleasant cover of The Psychedelic Furs' "Pretty in Pink." The audience needed one last boost, though, and Berninger sacrificed his vocal chords one last time for Alligator-favorite, "Abel." The National's performance was one of those that cemented the devotion of old fans, pulled the new fans down deeper, and introduced curious music lovers to a band that will soon be one of their favorites. What was even more telling about their performance, however, was how good the band is at projecting their sweet, album numbers into big, live productions. This is a band whose success will translate well into larger venues, and thus their studio growth will only keep getting magnified and verified by their performances. But hold on! This isn't even the scary (as in scary good) part. Did I mention that the albums keep getting better? I say keep feeding the beast, guys, until it swallows us all whole. | Dave Jasmon

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