The National @ The Neptune Theater 11.30.11

November 30, 2011

The National are late. Not in the sense that som eone knocked them up, or they were supposed to be onsage a half hour ago, but the change over between openers Local Natives and our headlining heroes is excessively long. Which about ten minutes before they take the stage we find out is due to backstage warm ups, hang outs, drink ons, and what have you. We know this because it's all braodcast across the giant backdrop on stage. A live camera image watermarked in the center reads THE NATIONAL as we see the band walk through a door and as it turns out, onto the stage to the sound of cheers and then respectful silence as they open with runaway.

Part of you wonders if it's difficult for the band to get in the headspace to play such melancholy songs each night but then singer Matt Beringer breaks the ice 2 songs in, cracking jokes about screwed up lyrics and too many rum and cokes. Bloodbuzz Ohio proves it's worth as a first single early on in the set. It's funny how a song can hit you so much harder once you've heard it once or twice and have 7 people in front of you translating it to your ear drums directly. Intense is an understatement for The National, their music just strikes a chord that I can't say many other bands know how to play.

Beringer is super chatty tonight, and super drunk. It's a fun juxtaposition to the songs dark atmosphere. Though as each song becomes more of a battle to remember the words, Beringer becomes increasingly frustrated, peaking with the chorus to swallow Victoria. As he screams the chorus, true emotion bleeding across, his frustration playing to our benefit as the band enter a breakdown culminating in a passionate climax beyond anything you could expect going in. The power of music appearing in front of us. This is where most bands fall apart but instead the national flourish. Perhaps it's the nature of the source material.

"Conversation 16 into Lemonworld is f-cking epic." That's the literal note I wrote to myself after the band blazed through the 2 cuts from their latest (and fantastic) release, High Violet. Proof that some bands still get better over time and not the contrary. Conversations might be the best song of the last 5 years even, but that's not what this review is here to argue. Some bands are just good. Plain and simple. There's no describing, no explaining, sometimes you just feel it and understand.

The show draws to a close around an intense version of Terrible Love, people all around transfixed as the full sound of 2 horn players, and dual guitarists fills the sold out Neptune theater, wrapping all of us in a blanket of noise and passion. Before unplugging and ending on the most intimate of notes, an acoustic and microphone-less version of Vanderlyle. The crowd match Beringers vocals as they bid us farewell for the night and the moment is over, and it's all just another memory of a phenomenal show slipping through our fingers.