Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mr. November

The National took the stage to the most unlikeliest song ever, Bob Dylan's The Man In Me. And they decided to go slow and mellow by opening with Runaway. The band's first-ever concert in Asia had a setlist heavy of Boxer and High Violet songs, in which most of the audience were familiar with, and I think those live versions were much better than the album versions, more guitar-driven and more rock & roll. The trumpet and trombone were put to good use, and they stood out more during tunes like Fake Empire, Conversation 16 and England.

Frontman Matt Berninger was weirdly mesmerizing to watch. You would think by the way he sings he would not really be that engaging. But there was quite a lot of onstage banter in between songs, with the audience and his bandmates. When he sang he gripped on to his mic stand as if he were hanging on for dear life. And when he didn't, he watched his drummer, with his back to the audience. He moved graciously and randomly across the stage, like a drunk. And then once in a while, he'd explode, screaming the lyrics, most notably in Squalor Victoria.

My personal favorite was Mr. November, the second song in the encore. And then Matt made a comment about American politics. The new rendition of Terrible Love was stirringly loud and the singer decided to work his way to the middle of the floor, walking over the seats among the audience. The closing song was an unplugged (literally), singalong version of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. Thanks to the excellent venue acoustics, I could actually hear the guitar strumming from where I was on the second floor.

The National is my fourth and last gig of 2011. Yup, it has been kind of a terrible concert-going year. But my god, what an unforgettable show; it really took me by surprise how great it was. My ears are still ringing as I'm typing this. Next up, Roger Waters performs The Wall in January.

P.S. This was one of the rare occasions where I didn't take a single photo.

1. Runaway
2. Anyone's Ghost
3. Mistaken For Strangers
4. Bloodbuzz Ohio
5. Slow Show
6. Squalor Victoria
7. Afraid Of Everyone
8. Conversation 16
9. Available / Cardinal Song
10. Sorrow
11. Apartment Story
12. Abel
13. Daughters Of The Soho Riots
14. England
15. Fake Empire

16. Lucky You
17. Mr. November
18. Terrible Love
19. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks