the national [2008]

Greek Theatre
Berkeley, CA
30 May 2008

I feel the need to come clean from the very beginning. The largest venue I’ve been to in the last 4 years has been The Warfield. In my mind, the smaller, the better (to a point). For me, it doesn’t get much better than seeing a band I love at Bottom of the Hill or Cafe du Nord.

So taking a seat on the lawn of the Greek Theatre, getting what would be my first of many footholds on the 85-degree slope, and gazing out into the vast open space before me, it was clear that I was in for something… different.

Why spend two paragraphs describing everything but The National? Because, it would be impossible (and unfair) to review this show without taking into consideration the wholly inappropriate surroundings.

Though I’d never seen The National before that night, trusted sources assure me that they really know how to wow a Bimbo’s crowd. Several times during the night, I found myself wishing that the band and a small subsection of the audience (definitely minus annoying-drunk-ass, look-at-me, self-appointed Mr. National hollering in front of us) could be transported just over the bay to Bimbo’s.

I am convinced that The National need darkness to produce. In some kind of twisted, sinister photosynthesis, Matt Berninger and the Twins 4 seem to require a poorly lit space in order to transform pain into beautiful, beautiful music.

In broad daylight, lost in the middle of a gigantic stage, before a sea of concrete, there was no transformation. Yes, Matt’s baritone was still something to behold. Yes, there were occasional moments of brooding magic that managed to wend their way out to us, but the whole…arrangement seemed so odd and out of place.

I will see The National again. I will see them in darkness. I will hear them from mere footsteps away. And I will smile.