The National with My Brightest Diamond at the Beacon Theatre, New York, New York; Friday December 16, 2011

I had a moment earlier today when I realised how amazing it was that I was able to squeeze in one more trip as well as seeing the National in 2011. It’s been a pretty stunning year as far as music goes and I’m really excited to unveil all my escapades with you once again in one post. So, stay tuned!

I can’t stress my almost immediate infatuation with the National after seeing them with some song knowledge under my belt. Their live show oozes effortless cool and ease while maintaining a powerful intensity. It is now wonder the band was able to sell out a six night stand at the Beacon Theatre in New York. I went to the second last gig of the string of shows.

Having seen them just over a week before, I was really happy to see that Berninger’s banter and presence wasn’t completely duplicated each show. Although it did feel significantly more personal at this show. I credit this to two very evident differences between the two gigs – first, the venue was definitely more suitable for the band. It would be a joke to say that the Air Canada Centre is appropriate for a concert. I lucked out because I was able to squish to the front. Many others were not so fortunate. Secondly, the National now reside in Brooklyn, New York (neé Ohio), so these shows were more or less home coming gigs.

The New York gigs had a different (fantastic) opener each night. My night featured My Brightest Diamond, a mix of colourful, deep vocals with a cabaret sound.  I was immediately taken by the song “I Have Never Loved Someone,” a bare bones love song. I stumbled in a bit late into her set, but I managed to hear “I Have Never Loved Someone, which she played alone followed by her GORGEOUS cover of “Feeling Good.” She originally contributed the cover to the Dark Was The Night compilation a few years back. The compilation was organised and arranged by the Dessner Twins of the National. My Brightest Diamond front woman Shara Worden introduced the cover as her final song and dedicated it to the late Nina Simone. Worden said she had saw her at the Beacon Theatre ten years ago and was anxiously waiting to have the opportunity to play that same stage. The couple next to me asked me if I knew who originally performed the song, much to my surprise I had no idea and the only version that came to mind was the Michale Bublé rendition. Turns out it was originally written for the musical The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd.

It’s always nice to recognise songs at a live show, these two ditties were an absolute surprise and pleasure.

Everyone who loves the National always talk about how they saw them five years before. It seems that the way I look at Bon Iver as “my little secret” is the way big fans see the National. I’ve forever known about them, but really haven’t given them a good listen until this year, or a listen at all. Heck, I adored the Dark Was the Night compilation and skipped their tunes. Major loss. It wasn’t until my last minute Coachella cramming was I able to really dip into their music. I didn’t have an easy time rolling into my adoration with them, but quite instantly fell in love with “Mr. November” and “Fake Empire.”

I bought tickets for this tour initially on the grounds that I wanted to witness “Mr. November” live again. It’s kind of an odd reason to drop $80 for.

I found an unlikely love with this band after seeing them just over a week ago. High Violet had served as my study soundtrack for nearly three weeks on repeat. Just dynamite.

Going to see them in New York was sheer gluttony, I could see them again, so I did.

As I mentioned before, I was really happy to hear that their banter changed, but I was really overjoyed to find that they wrangled up guest artists to contribute to their live tunes. At just the Friday show, someone from Kings of Leon, Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Rob Moose (Bon Iver, Jay-Z & everyone under the sun!).

Parry’s contributions were absolutely key to the sound of the tune “Conversation 16.” Hearing it at the Toronto show I really felt it was missing something. The National’s lead singer Matt Berninger introduced the song with a very grateful shout out to Parry’s contributions to the tune. He said that after Parry had heard a rough cut of the tune before the album was released, he suggested an alteration to the tune. He laid down an eight part vocal arrangement to the chorus to accompany the guitar bits. I couldn’t even imagine the song without the harmony bit, it didn’t sound right at the Toronto gig. Parry’s accompanying vocals to the gig was absolutely critical. It made a world of a difference:

Avec Parry:

Sans Parry (horn substitute):

Rob Moose’s violin contribution to the new tune “I Need My Girl” was absolutely breathtaking, especially in the last minute or so (the video really doesn’t do justification). Also, pretty impressive was the band’s debut concert performance of this song with Owen Pallet, who Berninger claimed had never heard the song before. Pretty flawless.

New York gig with Rob Moose:

Toronto gig with Owen Pallet:

Their first time playing this tune live on our very own Q:

Just a few thoughts revisiting the show on here. I’m sure I’ll give a few more thoughts as I fondly remember the show in the near future.

Berninger and co. closing up with “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”:

What the band was looking at:

If you like the National at all, you should check out this fab blog called Fuck Yeah! The National. They really frame the National well.



For Tyron: Bon Iver

Meet Bon Iver! Justin Vernon is the heart and soul of this band. He locked himself up in his father’s cabin in the winter of 2007 where he made his beautiful masterpiece For Emma, Forever Ago. It’s completely bare and full of heart, this is “Skinny Love,” probably the most accessible tunes of the album:

Somewhere between his two albums, Justin Vernon aka Bon Iver was recognised by heavy weight Kanye West for this song:

Kanye made it into this:

The follow-up to this album is a lush, orchestral piece. It’s absolutely gorgeous live and recorded: