Live Review - The National @ The Bowery Ballroom, 5/28/07

Matt Berninger and co. have had plenty of reasons to be thankful lately. On Friday night The National completed their amazing 5-night run of sold out shows at New York’s famed Bowery Ballroom. Not bad for a band that traded places from headliner to opener with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah 2 years ago when that band’s popularity superseded their own. Well, where are those guys now? Suffering the old sophomore jinx, that’s where - while the National are running with the success of the recent Boxer.

The band opened the 5 night run on Monday with a performance that left the crowd begging for more. They entered to the lovely, delicate chords of “Start A War” and proceeded to play a 90-minute set that drew heavily from the new material. In fact they played all but 2 songs from Boxer, as well as a selection of tunes from 2005’s Alligator, “Murder Me Rachel” from Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, and “About Today” from the Cherry Tree EP. Highlights included “Squalor Victoria”, which featured a new guitar freakout and Berninger repeatedly screaming the title phrase during the extended closing, a haunting “Daughters Of The Soho Riots”, the driving “Apartment Story”, and Alligator fan favorites “Abel” and “Mr. November”.

MP3 :: Fake Empire (from Boxer)

MP3 :: About Today (from Cherry Tree)

MP3 :: All The Wine (from Alligator)

Several of the Boxer cuts, such as “Slow Show” and “Squalor Victoria”, gained momentum from the album to the stage, but the setlist leaned a little too heavily on slower material (for example - they played “Baby We’ll Be Fine” from Alligator, but not “Lit Up”). The back to back pairing of “Racing Like A Pro” and “Ada” works just fine on record, but in a live setting toward the end of the set traded momentum for tediousness. When the band let loose the results were continually inspired - “All the Wine” was all brash, tongue-in-cheek male-posturing, “Daughters of the Soho Riots” rode a trance-like groove from drummer Bryan Devendorf that brought the set its highpoint of sublime beauty, and Berninger acted like an entertaining rock star (read: liability) on stage during the end of the set, engaging in a continuous brawl with his microphone cord, stand, and the stage-front monitors, and leaving a trail of broken equipment in his wake.

Opening act The Broken West played a competent set comprised almost entirely of their January debut I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On. They were good, especially on highlights “On The Bubble”, “So It Goes”, and “Down In The Valley”, and their cheery West Coast sound and attitude provided a nice counter to The National’s more stoic presence.

Thanks to Stuart Mockba for the great pic's!

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