Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Live Review - The National @ Park Ave. Armory

Just two days after they performed their song, "Sorrow" for six straight hours at MoMA PS1 in Queens, The National played a much more "normal" gig. In a private, invite only concert and taping for  the acclaimed series, Live From the Artists Den, The National played inside the historic Park Ave. Armory. Immediately entering the near century old building, everyone knew it was going to be a special night and special performance. Walking into the main area, which looks like a scene from Captain America, it felt like you were transported back into time and back to a time when things were much more simple, yet, looking around seeing the massive stage and cameras and rigs, it was anything bit. With the main clock in the hanger frozen in time at 7:40, The National were ready to bring things back to life.

Just two weeks before they release their new album, Trouble Will Find Me, The National gave fans a real treat as to be the first audience that got to hear most of the songs off their forthcoming record live for the first time. Opening with what will be the albums lead cut, "I Should Live in Salt," and then into the thunderous "Bloodbuzz Ohio," The National were energetic and in fine form. Yet, before they could go into their next song, "Demons," someone from the crowd screamed, "Play 'Sorrow,'" the band  and audience laughed as singer Matt Berninger said, "Not cool!" Playing a slew of new songs like "Heavenfaced," "Sea of Love," "Fireproof," "Graceless," and "I Need My Girl," the new material sounds much more dynamic and lush, of course it helped they were back by a small string ensemble, backing musicians that play everything from brass to keyboards, as well as longtime friend, producer and collaborator, Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman. The band have managed to make indie rock arrangements that most classical musicians would love to get a hold of with their latest work, longtime fans of the band will eat it up, but this is how, five albums in, you cast a wider net and get new faces at gigs. Of course older material like "England," "Mistaken For Strangers," "Slow Show," "Squalor Victoria," and even, surprisingly, "Sorrow," which heard Berninger joke, "It is the only song we rehearsed." As the main set lasted an 80 minutes, the band walked off stage but then came back for a four song encore, including a new song,"Pink Rabbits," which guitarist / pianist Aaron Dessner said, "Is our Civil War-era saloon song." Fan favorites "Fake Empire," and "Mr. November," were also thrown in before the epic show closer, "Terrible Love," was played, which saw Berninger walk around the stage aimlessly before walking off to the wings, nearly convulsing into his mic as he screamed, "It takes an ocean not to break!"

For The National it make take an ocean to break them after a set like this, and in the coming weeks as Trouble Will Find Me will find us, The National are in for a hell of a ride that they have worked so hard for all these years.