Tag Archives: the national

matt berninger

In the middle of the National’s show at the Pabst on Friday, someone in the band thanked Milwaukee, saying, “The last time we played here, there were like, 20 people around.”

There were substantially a lot more in attendance that night. It wasn’t a packed house, but it was close to it, and most everybody crowded around stage to see singer Matt Berninger and brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Scott and Bryan Devendorf. Padma Newsome, Aussie violinist, was around to play wicked violin, sing some harmonies and play some keys as well.

For the most part, the band, who produced the best melodic morosity these past two years via the albums “The Boxer” and “Alligator,” lived up up to my expectations. It was majestic and sorrowful, and it was great to see Matt Berninger delivering his handsome baritone into an uplifted mic.

It wouldn’t have been hard to please me, though. Both albums have been played over 100 times in my iPod and iTunes combined, so the National really could do no wrong. It sounded, as the audience sang along to most of the songs, like I wasn’t alone either. The band seemed to appreciate playing at the Pabst as well, saying “it seems almost too beautiful to drink in.”

There were obvious signs of touring strain. Some songs, such as the awesome “Abel,” the band seemed to just go through to get it over with. Maybe Berninger pulling back on the emotion; maybe he was just sick, as I saw him hacking during breaks. An audience member I spoke with after the show called the band derivative. Maybe what was missing was that magical quiet that really grabs your gut when listening to the National. Maybe it was just that after months of listening to them in my room, in my car, while running — seeing them move around a stage was just demystifying and anti-climactic.

Stil, by the time they did the final song, “Mr. November,” I was happy. It wasn’t the best show I’d seen all year — or even all month — but they didn’t f**k us over.

the national

Set List:
Start A War
Mistaken for Strangers
Secret Meeting
Slow Show
Squalor Victoria
All the Wine
Racing Like a Pro
City Middle
Apartment Story
Fake Empire
About Today

Green Gloves
Mr. November

Here’s what The National is reading on their tour bus: Aaron Dessner is on Marcel Proust’s “Swann’s Way.” His twin brother Bryce is reading a book on Austerlitz, and Bryan Devendorf is reading “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy.

At least, that’s what he said over the phone; maybe bands carry around heavy tomes while touring to impress journalists. We did talk a little bit about the band’s relationship with Vincent Moon, whose real name is Mathieu Saura. Vincent Moon does Take Away Shows, clearly one of the best indie music sites online. He takes touring artists and records them performing on the streets of Paris. It’s awesome.

Anyway, Dessner said that Vincent Moon was one of their first friends in Paris, so they were like his video guinea pigs and became a really good friend of the band. Now Moon is doing a film for R.E.M. and Arcade Fire, aside from the National DVD “A Skin, A Night.”

Another thing Dessner is working on now is a compilation for the Red Hot music series. Before he decided to concentrate on the National full time, Dessner worked for a new media company called Funny Garbage, which also released the Red Hot series.

Now they’re teaming up with the National’s label, Beggars Banquet, to release a compilation curated, if you will, by the National. “It’s such a good cause and great organization,” Dessner said.

The set, which will be out next year, will include the bands’ friends and favorite artists. “All of the artists we asked are very strong songwriters, independent minded musicians, and song–oriented musicians,” Dessner said. That includes Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Yo La Tengo, Spoon, The National, Grizzly Bear, Feist, Kevin Drew, Antony and the Johnsons, Bright Eyes and Cat Power.

Don’t forget to watch them at the Pabst this Friday.

the gig 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21
genre Indie rock
where Pabst Theater, 144 E. Wells St.
how much $15
latest release “The Boxer” (2007)