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Grizzly Bear, The National [New York City, New York; 10/10/08]

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , , , , on Monday, October 20, 2008 by gieb0624

With an eight dollar beer buzz, lungs filled with the New York City air, and finely pressed button up shirt that travelled with me from Minneapolis, I was ready for a night out with Grizzly Bear and The National, and let’s just say Matt Berninger (Lead Vocalist of The National) showed a New York City audience what a good show is really all about.

When Grizzly Bear took the stage I didn’t really know what I was going to expect from this Brooklyn based Indy folk band that I had listened to a hand full of times. I was feeling optimistic at first and kept telling myself that it was going to pick up, but I found it never really did. While Grizzly Bear’s rifts sounded pleasant and the vocals alarmingly beautiful, the music seemed to make me fade in and out of interest. At one point I found myself resting my chin on top of my girlfriends head as a prop to hold it up. Even though their album Yellow House can be found on my IPod with a dozen listens or so, I have come to the conclusion that like Ambien, it is best to take just before bed. After what seemed to be a fairly tame bear left the stage, the audience that was now halfway asleep started dozing into their IPod Touches playing games and choking down all the expensive “cheap” beer they could get in before The National would take the stage.

The National entered the stage. Because I was positioned right in the front I was able to notice a little bit of the pre-show sweat that had accumulated on Matt Berninger’s brow. I assumed from the drinks that were carried out with him the vodka and lemonades were going down smooth prior to the show, and to be honest that was perfectly all right with me. Right away the show started. The energy was so much higher than I expected. I had figured that much of the concert was going to consist of select songs from their latest release in 2007, Boxer, which landed them on the cover of Paste Magazine with best album of 2007. I’m not saying that the band didn’t grace us with the slow Bruce Springsteen-esque songs like “Fake Empire” and “Slow Show.” However, it was songs like “Abel,” from their 2005 release Alligator that got me singing at the top of my lungs and throwing my head around like I still had long hair, even though I didn’t. The parts of the show that I found to be the most intriguing all had to do with the lead singer. Because Berninger is just the vocalist and leaves the lead guitars up to the one set out of the four brothers in the band, he ended up being extremely entertaining. He moved around frequently when his vocals were not needed. Throwing his drinks at the back of the stage, yelling at the top of his lungs, and breaking the microphone stand and throwing it, all completed my National experience that night.

The songs danced around The Hammerstein Ballroom like garbage blowing through Times Square. Lovers held each other close when his words were deep and full of passion. Rockers danced about when the emotions got heavy and ending the concert with the song “Mr. November” from Alligator couldn’t have been any more appropriate with the Election in progress. All in all, the lyrics of Matt Berninger were louder than I had ever heard them before and it brought me back to the winter I first listened to The National with a friend while driving through the bluffs of northern Minnesota. We were “half awake in a fake empire.”