Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Daughters Of The Soho Riots

Even with all the show-going madness of last week, nothing in Austin measured up to the anticipation I had for The National’s return to Toronto last night. You may or may not recall I missed their Toronto debut last September when I was in Europe – well I caught this one just by the skin of my teeth. I got back into town on Monday and am leaving for a fortnight this afternoon. Anyway, no one cares about that. To the show!

Their tourmates on this jaunt were New York’s Cloud Room, who you may recall from Pitchfork’s recent cautionary tale. It must be an odd position for the band to be in – they’re like a hypothetical one-hit wonder without actually having the one hit (or revenues associated with). And that’s rather too bad – while the song in question, “Hey Now Now”, is definitely a catchy slice of something something, it’s not really indicative of their other stuff at all, which sounded to be a fair bit more unconventional and eclectic-sounding. If they could borrow some of the hookiness of the one song and graft it onto the bentness of the rest of their stuff, they could really be onto something. But not quite yet.

The National’s set opened with “Secret Meeting” (and no, still couldn’t make out the backing vox) and continued at a very deliberate, controlled pace, not getting too fast or slow. It was a few songs in at the brooding, hypnotic “Cherry Tree” that you began to feel the energy onstage begin to crackle. Then, when Matt Berninger howled “My mind’s not right!” in the chorus of “Abel”, it was like the floor gave out and the audience was plunged into the dark little rooms of Berninger’s psyche. He’s a mesmerizing frontman, pacing and roaming the stage as though searching for something that won’t be found, clutching the microphone like it’s a weapon one moment, life preserver the next. All the while the band churns out driving delicacy and aggression in equal measures. Not surprisingly, the most explosive moment came with the penultimate number of the set, “Mr November” as Berninger lurched around the stage, screaming “I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr November”, as much a cue for an audience singalong if I’ve ever heard one. Which the packed house did.

Rather than go through the typical encore motions, Berninger left after finale “About Today” in the midst of a an extended outro, then returned a short bit later for another three songs. Unaware that they had already received their encore, the crowd called them back for one more even after the house lights and music had come back on. For me, the show was worth the wait and could have been near perfect if not for the asshats who seemed to think Berninger’s Cincincatti Bengals shirt created some sort of deep, emotional connection between them that gave them carte blanche to talk loudly about football through the whole set, and not even anything insightful. That’s two shows in a row now that have been marred by people who seem to have nothing better to do than pay cover to hear themselves spout inanities. If this keeps up I will almost certainly be getting into my first fistfights since high school before the year is out. But I digress. Photos here.

John Stirratt talks about life in Wilco with The Des Moines Register.

Chart finds out what Nina Persson of The Cardigans has been listening to.

Radiohead are touring North America in June.

eye and NOW offer up their SxSW post-mortems.

Okay, gotta go pack now. Again. Boy oh boy do I love getting on planes.

np – Centro-Matic / Fort Recovery

By : Frank Yang at 10:46 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Tyrone says:

    nice pictures frank! and what was with that girl and her scream of death? I swear, some people go to these shows and are dying to be the centre of attention themselves.

  2. merckeda says:

    loud, obnoxious crowd aside, that was an awesome show. i was loving the setlist swipe you did at the end. thanks for another set of great photos.
    are the radiohead dates listed anywhere? i don’t want to go to the website since last time i was there it was impossible to navigate.

  3. suckingalemon says:

    i wonder where radiohead will play, im guessing the molson amp again (or moreso where they should have played last time).

    national was fantastic indeed.
    i had no idea what to expect, it’s real nice going to shows sorta blind and being surprised.


  4. chris says:

    you misspelled cincinnati. don’t be dissin no bengals, suckas.

  5. Neil says:

    Nice review, and totally agreed on the asshats.

  6. Nadish says:

    Oh, football, I was wondering what the hell "bengals wooo" meant. I think the show was still fantastic fun though, despite our favourite frat boys.

    I was chatting with Bryan afterwards and he mentioned that they might be getting a song on One Tree Hill, which I can only assume is exactly the same as The OC.

  7. graig says:

    " marred by people who seem to have nothing better to do than pay cover to hear themselves spout inanities."

    Yup… I had the pleasure of standing next to a group of shrill gabby girls saying such profound things as "Oh my god did you see his shirt? It says ‘Who Dey’. I think that means ‘Who are they’… It’s brilliant. I’m totally going out tomorrow and getting a shirt that says ‘Who Dey’."

    Thankfully gin washes the taste of vomit out of one’s mouth nicely.

  8. Seth says:

    Hey Frank, I wanted to thank you for getting me the passes to the show last night! I meant to thank you in person last night but I arrived a little late and couldn’t get to the front of the stage. Great show though, I hadn’t heard much of their older material and I found myself really enjoying it. I’ll have to check out their pre-Alligator albums.

  9. The B says:

    T’was a good show.

    But a poll to the rest of the crowd who also saw the Sept. show. I’m curious about comparisons.

    I thought the Sept show rawked the house a lot more than this time ’round. Not that I’m complaining, though I’m also wondering if this was because I was standing further from the stage this time which affected the atmosphere a bit more. Was there a mellotron involved the last time that wasn’t here this one as well?

    Or maybe it’s my mental incapacitation at the moment that makes me think this stuff up… help me out here, peeps. Thx.

  10. Sandra says:

    In September they were travelling with awesome, multi-instrumentalist Padme Newsome. Apparently he was in Australia this time around. I can only compare the two Montreal shows (plans to go to T.O. last night were thwarted when minutes from getting on the bus, I realized I’d forgotten my apartment keys #$*!!). But the sound was quite a bit different, rockier, less atmospheric.

    I spoke briefly to Tom after the show, and said I was a bit disappointed when I realized they’d be Padme-less, but wound up really loving the show, and hearing a different spin on the songs, quite pronounced in some cases. And he said that they do, as a rule, play very differently without him. To me they were equally excellent. Although seem to recall CGF being a helluva lot longer last time around, but that’s a minor complaint

  11. Sandra says:

    Worth noting that the crowd in Montreal was a little too well behaved perhaps, except for this one dude (who I remember from the last show), who truly has some unique stylings. Best part was in one of his several requests to hear CGF he shouted instead "BAD NEWS BEARS" which actually managed to elicit some serious, albeit shortlived, giggling from the otherwise stoic Bryce Dessner.

  12. Sandra says:

    Sh*t, that should read spoke to "Matt". Who the eff is Tom?

  13. jimmy says:

    so what did some of you people expect? for everyone to stand around rooted to the floor with their hands in their pockets, looking effete and cosmopolitan? to me that kind of attitude is worse for a rock show than some people doing a little yelling. yessss, there were some people at the show who probably never heard the national before or enjoyed alligator, but so what? quit being elitist indie rock snobs. and no, im not one of the "frat boy football talkers"

  14. Frank says:

    yeah, cause those guys were really disturbing my martini and imported Cuban cigars.

    Enthusiasm is fine. I didn’t even care about the screaming girl. But yelling in my ear through the entire show about football is not some blue-collar, working class charm. it’s assholeism, pure and simple. Doubt they’d appreciate it if a bunch of us went to one of their Bengals games and screamed in their ear about the situation in the middle east for three hours.

  15. graig says:

    1) The September show was better as stated because of Padme Newsome’s input…plus it was a better mixed show (the bass was waaay too fuzzed out, how’d the sound guy not notice?) Still a highly enjoyable show this time around despite sound flaws and audience problems, but September was much better.

    2) cheering and hollering and clapping and singing along and dancing and generally appreciating the music I can handle. Shouting a conversation throughout the set (and not just about banal subjects but extensive conversing generally) just defeats the purpose of being there. I don’t think that’s an elitist indie rock snob attitude. It’s just disrespectful to the people that are there to enjoy the show, and to the performers. Even when there’s a truly awful opening act I still save the talking for intermission.