Thursday, December 15, 2011

The National @ Beacon Theater (Or Part 1in an On-going Joke of How Elwood Is No Longer With It)

The National; So Percussion
@ Beacon Theater
New York, NY - December 14, 2011

Sure I could write about how the National have AMPED up. How they are more of a full-on rock band than ever before without actually changing their songs or their sound. How they are now halfway to being a rock spectacle like their old forerunners the Arcade Fire. How Padma and Doveman weren't there but the horn section is a permanent component of the band. How Berninger was as playfully fun as he's ever been (A Dessner mess-up to the opening of "Fake Empire" prompted a faux "WHAT THE FUCK!" that I found endlessly hilarious for reasons I am still unclear on). And how they do not forget their Fine Arts-y affiliations (witness the Steve Reich-playing Blue Man Group/Stomp for the Caviar set opener called So Percussion).
But nah. Let's talk about me! It's the Internet, you know.

It wasn't that long ago that seeing the National was regular "Pennypacker-on-the-town" business. I was the first person through the door at Terminal 5 when they christened it. I was at the great BAM shows. Etc. Etc. The National were (and still are) part of my elite favorites that I go to on a regular listening basis when nothing else will suffice (you know the crew - the Hold Steady, Metric, and my beloved misfit Dirtbombs). But that's just it. The National were (are) part of the last wave of bands-of-the-moment that I attached myself to. I've been musically stuck in 2007, 2008 for all these years. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have been great. Grinderman/Nick Cave and Tom Waits have been the most exciting musical stories to me of late. See my upcoming Year in Review for more on the few new bands and much older bands that Pennypacker has been listening to.

I spent more time listening to the Replacements this year than any other band.
This is why this blog is no longer relevant.

But that's OK.

I didn't mean for this to happen. I meant to stay hip and cutting edge for a long time. I've already blamed myself and others (bad concert audiences, the Chillwave scene) for this as being a problem. But maybe it isn't a problem. Maybe it's perfectly reasonable stasis. There is nothing wrong with a band like the National being part of the apex, the climax, the ne plus ultra, of a music-learning life. Especially if part of the change is life around you.

The National, maybe more than any other band in the Pennypacker Trust, provide a soundtrack. Matt Berninger's seemingly non-sensical but probing lyrics have the right kind of mature ambiguity to narrate that time you went to a party and felt out of place (or worse, went to a party and felt completely IN place!), the time you went to buy a dryer with your girlfriend's mother, the time you told your friend about having this exact kind of pretentious meta-conversation with yourself and share it on an obscure slice of the Internet. And of course the soundtrack for when they don't have Ewephoria cheese at Fairway and you belt out a Berninger-style "WHAT THE FUCK!".
So this review should not serve as a final goodbye letter to Pennypacker the Schmuck Who Likes Rock n Roll. But it looks like it is the final goodbye to Pennypacker the Schmuck Who Thinks He Can Tell You Which Band to See Right Now. You're on your own. Good luck.

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