All The Wine: The National Live - By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret
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All The Wine: The National Live

Quality of alcohol be damned, The National are still triumphant as ever.

Author: on June 8, 2013
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There was no line, but the place was packed. Opening band People Get Ready were well received, but few were there to see the Brooklyn band. The crowd were practically poised to start chanting “we want The National!” right before the Dessner twins trotted onto the stage. The entirety of Lupo’s erupted once Matt Berninger strolled up to the microphone as the violet stage lights turned a bright white. The Devendorf brothers kicked in the rhythm section and “Don’t Swallow the Cap” began blaring through the speakers. To say the band was engaged would be an understatement. Bryce and Aaron were constantly squaring off with their guitars, Bryan was acting (and looking) Animalistic behind his drum kit with his brother in a sustained groove throughout the set. And Berninger himself? An absolute drunken treat — whiskey in hand and playful anecdotes rolling off his tongue. In his usual fashion, broodingly pacing around the stage in between lyrical verses, occasionally displaying his excitement to his band mates through variations on fist pumps and handclaps; in prime form and just starting their tour for Trouble Will Find Me, it was a special night in Providence.

Lupos

“This place has good wine, I just thought you all should know. So thanks,” Berninger explained to us, his ample crowd somewhere between fifteen-hundred and two-thousand. “But, this is whiskey,” he continued, pointing to the glass in his hand as the band cut into the next song on the set list. “Squalor Victoria” was the pace-setter for the entire show. It gave Berninger – who, up to that point, had seen fit to post himself up on his microphone stand – some time to build up his energy, which would subsequently burst during the closing seconds of “Graceless”, mic in hand, doubled over, Berninger wailed his heart out. He’s apt to do so, of course, and would repeat that motion countless times through the rest of the set. But following Bryan and Scott Devendorf’s exceptional build up, through Boxer’s finest song, everything kicked into gear, as though the band were unaware they were touring their exceptional sixth record, nearly twenty years into their careers.

Then that rumble started, the bass rolled and Devendorf’s drums began to flow like water. Maybe that wine started to work, or possibly the whiskey began to burn in Berninger’s stomach – or maybe the band, who are all striding into their forties, just needed a little shot to the heart, and “Squalor Victoria” was it. One of four Boxer tracks played, each a linchpin of sorts for the set. “Mistaken For Strangers” helped bring the crowd into the event, while “Apartment Story” provided some time to breathe in between “Abel” and “Pink Rabbits.” “Fake Empire”, on the other hand, was implemented to ease out the proper setlist, helping cool the energy that the crowd and band alike had been more than immersed in. A sendoff, of sorts, to the fans who had packed Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel full for the band’s first show, at not only the venue, but in the city of Providence. “This place is so beautiful, I can’t believe we have never been here before,” Berninger mused before the band broke into “Fake Empire” – “thank you all so much, you are wonderful,” he concluded as the horns behind him began their uproar. While this touching moment was fitting for a band of their experience and stature, especially considering how deceptively large Lupo’s is, it was hardly the show’s highlight.

Once The National took their bows and retreated backstage, it wasn’t long before the crowds ferverent chanting forced them back out for the encore. “I Should Live In Salt” began ringing through the speaker system as the stage lights lit the band in an azure hue. “Sorrow” followed, probably the single finest song of the night, as far as sheer audio-quality is concerned – possibly something to do with its six-hour showing at MoMA. But it was the exceptional Alligator closer “Mr. November” that provided the most memorable moment of the night. By “Mr. November’s” second chorus, Berninger was in the crowd, reminding us all how he would never fuck us over. Eventually he made his way to the back end of the club, finishing off the track atop the main bar in the middle of Lupo’s crowd, screaming his vocal chords bare as the band extended the track to lengthen his escapades.

This is the fourth time I have seen The National, the second in an intimate setting such as Lupo’s, and even on an enormous festival stage, the energy the band displayed throughout this night was palpable. We could feel it oozing from the stage, washing over us in the form of bassy reverb and a purring brass section. Never before have they seemed so comfortable, so poised and excited – at least to these eyes and ears. I left that night firmly affected, my adoration for this group further confirmed. The National are probably the best American band creating music today, and if this first show of their current tour is any indication, I won’t be the last one to say this in 2013. You can be sure of that.

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