Posted on November 12, 2007 at 3:33 pm | No Comments
When I read that the National would be playing at a downtown Boston bar called Paddy O’s (legal capacity: about 230), my first thought was that someone had either A) gotten their info way wrong, or B) thought it was the first of April. After all, the band had just sold out the 1400-capacity Roxy a few weeks earlier, as well as two nights at the 575-capacity Middle East downstairs back in June. But when I realized the news was shared by Sean, who books Paddy O’s sister bar, Hennessy’s (a place that has started hosting some pretty great shows this year), I quickly realized it was no joke.
I’m one of those who only really “got” the National after seeing them live back in June 2005. “Alligator” didn’t grab me immediately, but after watching the band rip through 15 songs at a half-full TT the Bears, I was all in. And unlike its predecessor, this year’s “Boxer” hit me instantly, securing itself a seat high in my ’07 top ten list. But when I learned the band would play two likely-jam-packed shows at the MidEast Down, I balked at seeing the new stuff in that venue… “Boxer” is a more intimate record, and I felt better leaving its songs in my headphones rather than braving the potentially poor sight-lines and sardined conditions of the MEDown. When the band returned to play the Roxy in early October, conflicting plans, a general distaste for the venue, and another sell-out kept me away from that one, too. Call me crazy, but in my dreams the band would’ve played the Somerville Theatre or the MFA… that’s how I saw the “Boxer” songs brought to life, at someplace involving seats. But I’d completely forgotten how much rock the National brings to even their slower songs, and it wasn’t long into their Paddy O’s set that I was reminded of that. Powerfully.
So, about this Paddy O’s gig: Ostensibly, it was to mark the 100th installment of WFNX‘s morning show, “The Sandbox”, but in reality, it was to try and sell a whole lot of Miller beer products. As soon as I walked in, I was surrounded by Miller banners, Miller hawkers, people drinkin’ Miller, and embarrassingly, a botched sign promoting the evening’s appearance by “The Nationals”. Yes, it crossed my mind then that maybe this was all a ruse, and that Cristian Guzman or Nook Logan would be there to tell everyone what time it was (answer: Miller Time!). When I went up to the bar and asked what they had on tap, the bartender semi-laughed at me before responding: “Miller”. And that was it. Fortunately, the “Champagne of Beers” is one of my low-budget drinks of choice, so with High Life in hand I eased up near the front to make sure there were instruments up there. Whew, there were, and the drum kit definitely belonged to Bryan Devendorf. Then it hit me: I’m actually going to get to see the f’in National in this place.
After a too-long delay during which ‘FNX personalities reminded us a few times to drink up the Miller, we were treated to an on-stage appearance by four, and I kid you not, “Miller Girls”. Shirts tied in belly-exposing knots, smiles firmly in place, and not a word spoken by them (just the DJs leading them), it had to have been one of the most surreal introductions the National had ever received. Off to the side of the slightly raised performance area, the guys grinned sheepishly, probably not believing what they were seeing, same as many of us. So, so odd.
And then, finally, the six guys hit the stage: Singer Matt Berninger, Scott & Bryan Devendorf (bass & drums, respectively), Aaron & Bryce Dessner (guitars), and thankfully this time, Padma Newsome on keys and violin…
Live at Paddy O’s
in Boston, Massachusetts
on Friday, October 26th, 2007
01. Start A War
02. Mistaken For Strangers
03. Secret Meeting
05. Baby, We’ll Be Fine
06. Slow Show
07. Squalor Victoria
08. All The Wine
10. Racing Like A Pro
11. Apartment Story
12. Fake Empire
13. Mr. November
14. The Geese of Beverly Road
The band was on fire, the songs intense, the crowd noisily appreciative. Normally I’d be annoyed by such an overly raucous audience (that’s the taper in me typing), but it fit just right at this small rock show, and swept me up. I walked outta there thinking it could have been the show of the year, and with distance, a few weeks later it’s easily in my top five.
Some National links…
- Their official site, MySpace page, Wikipedia entry, and their Beggars label page.
- Additional Audio: Four songs to stream on MySpace, as usual, and three older songs shared as Mp3s on their own site: “Slipping Husband“ and “Murder Me Rachael“ from “Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers”, and “Cold Girl Fever“ off their self-titled debut. NPR also transmitted a live National performance from DC’s 9:30 club in June, which you can listen to via the All Songs Considered podcast. I’ve excerpted two songs here for your listening pleasure…
Also, the Boston Phoenix’s On The Download music blog puts my recording to shame by sharing soundboard audio from the Paddy O’s show, along with some sweet two-camera video action.
- Video: The aforementioned OTD live videos for “Brainy“, “Secret Meeting“, and “Mistaken For Strangers“. A whole bunch of preview clips for the upcoming National film, “A Skin, A Night” by Vincent Moon. A new Black Cab Session for “You’ve Done It Again, Virginia” that Berninger & a Dessner performed acoustically in the back of a London taxi just yesterday. The band also did one of the Blogoteque Take Away Shows, performing both “Start A War” and “Ada“. And, of course, there’s the handy National YouTube search.
- Photos: My point-and-shoot shots of the National at Paddy O’s are here. The Line of Best Fit has some excellent pics of the band’s performance last night in London. For many more photos, here’s a National Flickr tag search. Good thing Flickr doesn’t ignore the “the” in their searches, or you’d be looking at lots of pictures of parks.
- Tourdates: The National continues their worldwide trek in support of “Boxer” through the end of the year and beyond. Tonight they’re in Belgium, then they hit up most of Europe before closing out their 2007 road trip in Russia. January brings them south of the equator, with a stop in New Zealand and many more in Australia.
- Listen to any and all ‘Nac-hosted Mp3s at le Hype Machine.
the fine print… If anyone has an issue with these Mp3s being made available, just let me know (my contact info in the ‘nac faq). Live sets recorded with a Sony ECM-719 mic and a Sony MZ-RH10 minidisc, converted to .wav and then edited to 192kbps Mp3s. Files are made available for a limited time, and are not reposted once removed.