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.
Radiohead are touring North America in June.
Okay, gotta go pack now. Again. Boy oh boy do I love getting on planes.
np – Centro-Matic / Fort Recovery