Sunday, June 20, 2010

The National at Spreckels Theatre

Is it too early to crown High Violet as the album of the year? After a four hour flight back to Los Angeles from St. Louis, I drove two hours down to San Diego to catch The National at the Spreckels Theatre. Remembering how superb their performance was at the Wiltern Theater helped combat the fatigue of travel weariness.

Ramona Falls

Brent Knopf spends most of his time in Menomena but still manages to find time to create records under the Ramona Falls moniker. Appearing on stage by himself, Knopf strummed his acoustic guitar for the see saw notes of "Russia" from his album, Intuit.

Alternating between a guitar and his synthesizer, Knopf worked through a handful of wistful tunes. It was nice to see Ramona Falls on the bill as Menomena are old touring partners with the National. Menomena is gearing up to release their new album, so I don't expect to much touring for Ramona Falls for a little while.

The National

Spreckels Theatre was perfectly suited for The National's haunting atmospheric tunes. Matt Berninger would comment that the venue was beautiful quickly followed by a quip that it was "no Casbah though". The National launched their first volley in the form of "Start A War" with its dulcimer tones.

A propulsive drum beat of "Mistaken For Strangers" had Berninger clutching his microphone with his eyes closed belting out the lyrics in his rich low baritone voice. Aaron and Bryce Dessner coaxed out the yearning guitars of "Anyone's Ghost" that washed over the audience. A horn section added some extra sheen to the urgency of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" while the Dessner twins added backing vocals.

"Afraid of Anyone" is another stand out track from High Violet that sonically reminds of something that Morrissey would have done in the Vauxhall and I era. As the night progressed, Berninger's dived more viciously into his performance and eventually making his way out into the front row of the seated theatre.

The horn section filled in the gaps again for "Slow Show" with the twinkling guitars also coloring the sound. "Squalor Victoria" had Berninger stammering around the stage uncontrollably passionately screaming the chorus. A bouncing piano line signified the melancholy vibe of "Little Faith". Tremolo guitars signaled "Conversation 16" which is in contention as my favorite track from High Violet.

The National's setlist choices were flawless selecting such tunes as "Daughters of The Soho Riots", "Abel", "Sorrow" the majestic "England", and "Fake Empire" to close out their set. Berninger hilariously kicked over his ice bucket that contained his wine bottle which summoned roadies to quickly jump from the wings of the stage to mop up the mess. After the roadies left, Berninger cooly poured out more wine telling the roadies they missed a spot.

"Runaway" and the outstanding "Lemonworld" kicked off the encore before things turned chaotic for a rousing rendition of "Mr. November" and the shimmering "Terrible Love". While the printed setlist stated that would be the end of the show, The National did reemerge for the live favorite "About Today". The National will be back on October 16th to play the Fox Theater in Pomona. I wouldn't miss it and you shouldn't either.

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