The National @ Kool Haus, Toronto [Concert Review]

by Woody on June 1, 2009

Photo courtesy of Chart Attack.

The National kicked off a summer tour last Thursday rolling through Toronto’s unfortunately named Kool Haus, a rather antiseptic venue, part warehouse and part hipster club.‚  This is a band that is definitely bringing it’s A-game right now coming off of two consecutive outstanding albums and contributing significantly to the Dark Was The Night benefit record.‚ ‚  Since this will be one of the headlining acts at the much-anticipated Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, I took one for the team and headed up to one of the great cities in North America to review one of the great indie bands of the day.

On this evening, the band was nicely accented by a small horn section that figured prominently on certain of those Boxer songs, most notably “Fake Empire,” bringing a pounding wall of sound.‚  But for the most part, it was just solid guitar rock, great drums and the manic energy of lead vocalist Matt Berninger. He dressed in suit and skinny tie and exhibited a slight hunch in his posture, probably from carrying the weight of those wrecked relationships of which he so often sings.‚ ‚  Speaking of his lyrics, Berninger has been criticized for lyrics that border on being obtuse.‚  Personally, I fail to see it, although at times find myself amused by a curious choice of words.‚  You have to love lines like the following from “All the Wine” off Alligator. “I’m put together beautifully/big wet bottle in my fist/big wet rose in my teeth/I’m a perfect piece of ass.”

Berninger moves like a taller version of a spastic Thom Yorke and on this night he carried on a perpetual battle with a microphone stand that eventually succumbed to Berninger’s ingenuity. There is uneasy electricity that charges The National’s music and at times reminds me of a less-goth version of Joy Division.‚  Perhaps it is that pounding rhythm section, courtesy of the hugely talented Bryan Devendorf, or possibly Berninger’s Curtis-like baritone.‚  I’m not entirely sure, but it translates well to the stage and should make for a great spectacle under the Chicago summer skies.‚  Remember, this band is well practiced having opened for R.E.M last year in large arena settings and has an extensive catalogue to keep an audience tuned in for the entirety of a show.‚  It all showed up nicely on this evening.

If you’re going to be in the crowd at Pitchfork, you’re fortunate.‚  I can’t wait. And of all the great bands that have signed up to perform that July weekend, The National remains at the top of my list.

The National – So Far Around The Bend

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Highway FIve June 30, 2009 at 8:07 am

Nice review. I love the way you describe Matts hunched stance. I guess it has something to do with both his height and all that remorse!

I have a new national track on my blog called Runaways.

Come and have a look

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