Friday, October 12, 2007

Pop The Champagne: The National Inaugurate Terminal 5

The National; St. Vincent
@ Terminal 5
New York, NY - October 11th 2007

This review was going to be prefaced with a lengthy analysis of the last seven years and how the great Indie revival of rock n' roll could be split in two between a more rockin', fast-paced, stripped down first half and a more mature, thematic, thoughtful second half...but why bother? In reality, it was just an excuse to explain how relevant music jumped from the Hives and Vines to the National. No matter. Let's get into this thing.

First, welcome to Terminal 5. This blogger, by happenstance and without much effort, became the first patron to enter the venue on opening night (trying to escape from the pouring rain can lead to good things). I was able to take in the entire place in its near emptiness and appreciated what the Bowery Presents is attempting to do. A comfortable large venue, with cushioned seats to relax in back - on 2 upper levels - with great surround views of the MASSIVE platformed stage. Granted, the stage looks a bit like a High School prom, but no matter. Terminal 5, in just its opening minutes of existence, promised to be a landmark venue for New York.
While this blogger became a most minor footnote in history, St. Vincent became a more significant one when she became the first artist to play the room. Initially, her deep, dark sound resonated well, and that mysterious three-prong tower of light behind her made for an impressive view, but it became apparent that the material felt hollow without a backing band. She is a gifted singer and songwriter (see/hear "Marry Me John"), but a one-person act for such constructed music just won't do.

Then arrived the National. The National are truly a strong intake of musical oxygen, a deep inhalation of several sounds that, when exhaled, produce something unified and special. Americana roots rock, British 80's pop, and assortment of folk sounds seem to make their way - and who knows if the band would even agree to that - into the distinct, original pop of this most sturdy and yet relaxed of bands. The brothers Dessner and Devendorf recall a host of bands that are tiring to name but they do not sound like them at all. It's a paradigm of sorts. And if it isn't, let's call it one anyway. But more important than the meat-and-potatoes of the stew, it is the end product that defines the band: Inspiring, emotional, soaring, at times anthemic, and at times introspective, and always meaningful. Lead singer Matt Berninger shares the gravity with the rest of the band but at the same time, he commands a marked presence. That voice of his, one of the finest voices in music today, is so loud without even approaching upper octaves. When he does sing loud, it is so much more special than when other singers wail frequently, and it has all the more impact. And when he's in moment, in his trance, he brings everyone into it with him.
There are too many highlights to mention, from the opening strains of "Start A War" to the thunderous finale of "Mr. November". As the encore got underway, Matt popped some champagne in honor of the new house, and poured a little on the floor in honor of it all. Cheers.

An SPTV Special: The Debut of Terminal 5 Starring the National

"Mistaken for Strangers":

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