Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In Concert: The National w/ opening act Colin Stetson

It being my first time at the new House of Blues in Boston (formerly both the Avalon and Axis clubs), I spent a while before the show roaming about the venue. The layout of the place included an open-air first floor, with the crowd standing an arms length away from the stage. The upper two floors wrapped around the atrium, housing seats and the VIP lounges, etc. Colorful artwork hung on nearly every open spot on the walls, my favorite of which was a canvas of Springsteen hanging outside the mens room. However, the most striking aspect of the venue was its stage. Silver strands provided the backdrop, which gave the place an almost Hawaiian-feel. Above the stage was a gigantic hand with an eye in the middle, surrounded by symbols of all the major world religions. Oh, and its located on Lansdowne Street, across from Fenway Park. I <3>

Eventually Colin Stetson, a saxophonist whom I had never heard of, walked on stage in front of a crowd whose patience was worn thin after a near half hour delay. However, he overcame our impatience within a few seconds of playing. It was not the saxophone we had expected; he was doing something different, alternating melodies and tempo rapidly. His control over his own breath was astounding, displaying his mastery over the instrument down to the last detail. The music he created was genuinely unique and therefore indescribable. So, I suggest checking him out here.

The National eventually joined him on stage to a roaring crowd. Here's their setlist, with their unreleased songs starred.

Start a war
Mistaken for strangers
Secret meeting
Baby we'll be fine
Slow show
Vanderlyll Crybaby*
Squalor victoria
Blood Buzz Ohio*
Apartment Story
Daughters of the Soho Riots
Fake empire

Green gloves
Mr. November
About today

An arms length away from the stage and stereo, I was swept away by the crooning of lead singer Matt Berninger backed by bandmates Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Scott and Bryan Devendorf (the latter being the drummer.) Admittedly, I was a bit worried about how they would sound live. I had seen them briefly when they opened for R.E.M. last summer, and though they sounded decent at that time, they didn't blow me away (granted, they were opening for R.E.M....)

However, this show was precisely the opposite. In fact, after they finished up fan favorite Abel, Berninger (at left) said that he thought that performance was much better than the one off of Alligator- this listener agrees. He also gave the audience a preview of some newer tracks, the best of which being Bloodbuzz, Ohio. The upcoming CD, according to Berninger, is not going to be called "Shine" as other blogs have reported, but rather "How the Leprechauns Died". With a potential name like that, I'm crossing my fingers that his laughing after the statement was just because he was having a good time. But I doubt it.

I've always been partial to the percussion in The National's music, usually most striking in the opening twenty or so seconds of their songs. It's no wonder that tracks like Squalor Victoria, Apartment Story, Mr. November, and Abel are a few of my favorites off of their two latest CD's, Boxer and Alligator. They proved to be my favorite in concert, as well.

Anyways, they're on tour right now and you should probably check them out. Here's a link to their tour schedule/band website-http://www.americanmary.com/shows2/

annnd here's a link to their LastFm page- http://www.last.fm/music/The+National

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