October 19, 2010

The National @ Fox Theater, Pomona

I could just cop out and re-post Awmercy's Frightened Rabbit @ Wonder Ballroom review with The National references plugged in at appropriate intervals, but that would be just downright lazy.  Extensive market research shows High Violet is a clear number one contender for album of the year and, on top of that, it was my first live go-around with a band that I consider one of my current favorites. The anticipation was high; the performers did not disappoint.

There are two distinctively separate components to The National it seems: One, the self described “musically inept,” eccentric lead singer and primary depressing lyric-writer Matt Berninger. And two, the exceptionally tight (musically) band that tends to morph in numbers depending on when and where you see them on tour. Both elements can be spot-on with what you would expect to hear from the albums; however, they can be creatively and emotionally conflicting and unique to make a live show interesting, for better or for worse. I think this night the elements came together for the better and the band especially played to the Pomona
crowd’s enthusiasm, by extending tracks with musical avalanches that went well beyond the record run time.

One aspect of The National's live show that may catch someone recently acquainted with the rockers off guard are the tracks where Berninger deviates from his familiar baritone and takes the pipes for a drive. Tracks like “Available,” “Squalor Victoria” and “Mr. November” woven in with “Slow Show” and “Anyone’s Ghost” can be jarring if unexpected, but the contrast also adds those passionately human elements that show a band is willing to put themselves "out there" and ultimately infuses the set-list with energy. After a number of self-deprecating quips, band banter and sarcasm laden song introductions (“This is another happy song… It’s about cannibalism.”), the evening ended with an entirely unplugged, chill-inducing version of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” that had both the crowd singing and the uplifting aura that brought an appropriate ending to show.

Owen Pallett opened with an impressive set heavily laden with looped tracks off of is recent Heartland album. The dude is extremely talented, and that’s all that really needs to be said.