Video: The National Perform Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks Live @ Brooklyn Academy of Music, 15 May 2010
Indie-rock legends The National powered through a blistering two-hour set at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on Sunday, 9 February 2014. It was a day after their performance at the Sydney Opera House, which I can’t compare with because I did not complete my homework to watch the live stream on YouTube.
Nevertheless, I will continue forward with my essay despite my lack of proper research (Pfft, when did that stop any other blogger?).
The scene was set as dusk began to fall over the majesty of the outdoor arena of the “Myer Music Bowl” (as we locals call it). The tunes over the loudspeaker were distinctly my two favs – Fugazi… and Aaron Dessner’s friend in glorious music – Sharon Van Etten. They must have borrowed my iPod, as I don’t really know where the hell it is.
Footage of the band navigating their way through to the stage was shown live onto the big screen slowly building up the excitement in the audience who were all there to salivate when their favourite songs were played by the biggest indie-rock band of this generation.
Bang – Don’t Swallow the Cap! Trouble Will Find Me’s 2013 creeper is their opening number, Matt Berninger’s baritone voice sings out “I’m not alone, I’ll never be”. Find that very minute I’m transfixed.
Song 2 (no, not the Blur song), is I Should Live in Salt, which is “partly” about Matt’s younger brother Tom Berninger. He who was meant to make a movie about The National but ended up making a movie about himself! The Mistaken For Strangers Q&A held with Matt earlier the same day is another story entirely that I can tell you about someday (maybe tomorrow… if you’re lucky).
Coincidentally the third song is… Mistaken For Strangers! A great song? Or perhaps a subliminal message to encourage you to see the movie (produced by Matt and his wife)?
Next it was time for a bit of High Violet, but not too much or you could freak out: Sorrow and then they freaking played Bloodbuzz Ohio too early in the set! The crowd enjoyed the tune nevertheless, but it could have been left for the third-quarter for more intense applause.
Other highlights of the show included the first single, Sea of Love and the pensive I Need My Girl from Trouble Will Find Me. Matt evoked his inner demon in Abel and it was a joy to watch him yell “My mind’s not right” while he thrashed about on the stage floor. If you are taking requests, more of this please!
Actually, Mr Berninger was playing the role of the volatile frontman exceptionally well. I counted him smashing two sets of wine glasses up on stage, throwing one (mostly) full cup of drink sky high into the crowd, disappearing off stage for unknown reasons mid-song, alternating between smashing the microphone into the stage floor and bashing it into his own head. Granted, he was probably ‘bloodbuzzing’ the whole night.
The rest of the band were also in fine form on this occasion. The Dessner brothers (Aaron & Bryce) seemed to use their twin senses to tune into the same frequency and repeatedly pumped up the crowd throughout the night.
Aaron Dessner, no Bryce Dessner, no Aaron Dessner (buggered if I know which is which), jumped onto the keyboards for some of the night and the other one (you know which one), was very handy on the guitar even when required to pick-up a second guitar and elicit feedback.
The danceable energy behind England and Graceless fit like a glove together when played back-to-back. I might have predicted so (*blows on nails and wipes on shirt in nonchalance*). Is a ‘setlist writer’ a real job? If so, insert my resume here…
Unfortunately bass player, Scott Devendorf, couldn’t make the tour as he and his wife recently had a new baby. Luckily his brother, Bryan Devendorf, was there and performed very well on his tiny golden drum kit.
The fill-in bass player was caught soaking up the good vibes from the crowd before the encore. His father apparently sailed the seven seas from Portland to Melbourne just to be there. The touring musicians in the horn section were also fantastic and sounded gigantic at the Music Bowl. At points it was eerie.
The band returned for their encore playing Humiliation after we all cheered, and some of us bruised our thumbs after lots of banging on chairs. I suffer for my art – well, for other’s art.
Mr November and Terrible Love proved further opportunities for Berninger to explore his demons by running through and standing on the crowd like he was Jesus. The unforgettable moment came along when the band appeared at the front of the stage, house lights on, and an intimate acoustic performance of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks was sung in unison with the 11,000 strong crowd.
The encore confession? Okay, I did it. I touched Matt*.
You were worried I was some crazy fan always talking about Pink Rabbits and highly likely to stalk Matt Berninger all weekend. Incorrect!
During Mr November Matt ventured out into the crowd and *almost* completed a lap of the Myer Music Bowl with the longest microphone cord this side of Woodstock. He bludgeoned his way passed a thousand fans in the aisles until he speed at rapid sped through row S.
I was in row T. You would have done the same thing!
- Don’t Swallow the Cap
- I Should Live in Salt
- Mistaken for Strangers
- Bloodbuzz Ohio
- Sea of Love
- Hard to Find
- Afraid of Everyone
- Conversation 16
- Squalor Victoria
- I Need My Girl
- This Is the Last Time
- Slow Show
- Apartment Story
- Pink Rabbits
- About Today
- Fake Empire
- Mr. November
- Terrible Love
- Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
* Just to clarify, it was a pat on the back. Nothing seedy, okay?
Previously on Sampling Station:
- The National: Live on 89.3 The Current
- The National: Australian Tour February 2014
- Sharon Van Etten: Give Out