Forgive me if I go over-enthusiastic about this one, but I have been waiting for that night to happen for a very long time. The excitement took over my body easily, infecting each and every cell. The feeling of something amazing just around the corner. Something magical, unreasonable and overwhelming. There is no real need for objectivity here. My favorite band has just played their first ever gig in my city. How wonderful is that?
Let’s start with the supporting artist. The only word that comes to mind when I think of her is adorable. Sharon Van Etten, an American singer-songwriter, released her new abum Epic last year. That sweet little gal performing with bass and drums was a great choice to open last night’s show. Vocals hitting perfectly each and every note, a bit of carelessness in the sound of her guitar together with strong Patti Smith influences made her part of the evening very pleasent and enjoyable. She was joined by Aaron Dessner [who is currently working with Sharon on her next record], as they performed together two brand new songs. The end of the supporting act made the screen in the back of the stage go bright, high violet.
As the tour is promoting band’s latest, fifth studio album, most of the setlist came from High Violet. You would expect a band like The National to sound calm and steady, but instead … Matt Berninger treating himself with wine and walks through the audience [while still singing the song], bouncing on rails and screaming his heart out in the chorus. Aaaron and Bryan Dessner making a proper rock’n’roll guitar noise and giving some of the songs classic shoegaze finish. Excellent drums [Bryan Devendorf] accompanied by trumpet, trombone and piano. Managing to switch moods from fury to sentimental in just few minutes. Although most of their songs speak of anxieties and no exit situations, there was striking power and brightness in their performance, loads of very positive energy spreading around, especially during Abel, Squalor Victoria and High Violet’s first single Bloodbuzz Ohio. They kept it up until the very end – the fourth of the encore songs: Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, performed with the whole audience, with all the musicians standing on the edge of the stage. It might seem like a cheap trick, but it worked magic. My personal pick of the night must be About Today, an old one from Cherry Tree , very simple and charming ballad wih heartbreaking lyrics and haunting melody. Amazing, how these few sentences become breathtaking while sung on the stage supported by delicate beats of drums and looping guitar. It felt like the music went into my body and through my veins hit my brain. All became one and both place and time were incredibly right. Berninger’s ability to capture tension and uncertainty of emotions never fails to amaze me. It is what I most admire in a songwriter: sensitivity and fragility, hidden behind bright lights of the stage. Shows up only between the lines and most of the time is easily overlooked.
Alligator came out in spring 2005 and from the very begining stole my heart. It was not only about Berninger’s voice and the guitars, but also a unique mood those songs were able to build. And through the years, the origins of the sound have not changed. Those guys were with me, when I hopelessly fell in and out of love, ruined and built my relationships, gave up just to give in once again… Basically, the soundtrack of my mid twenties. And it was beautiful and tough, dreams coming true and unbearable pain, just like the songs they play. Well, what more can I say? I already sound like an excited teenager. Incredible journey that was. As I said once before: music is my boyfriend. And yesterday we went out on our best date ever.