Concert Review: The National, June 8th, Massey Hall

Toronto – Welcome to part 2 of my review of Tuesday night’s show. Part 1, featuring the Antlers, can be found here

Fake Empires, Mistaken For Strangers, Bloodbuzz Ohio, Albel, Lit Up, Karen, Mr. November

These are the songs from the National I can name off the top of my head. Needless to say, I am not overly familiar with their material. However, I know a hot ticket when I see it, so when the National announced they were playing two shows at Massey Hall, I felt like I had to go. I had gotten myself acquainted with most of the bands material before the show, but like that random stranger you meet at a house party, I could only scratch the surface of what the band was about before the show.

First of all, let me tell you, Massey Hall, your basement bathroom area is a death trap during intermission. If there was a fire, everyone down there will DIE. No clue why I thought about this during that time, it’s probably the effects of aging.

Anyways, shortly after 9:20, the band took the stage to a rapturous applause. I was surprised by the size of the band, when I saw them at the Horseshoe back in the day, they were a much smaller band (and also, they still claimed to be from Cincinnati, instead of Brooklyn). Accompanying them was a horns section and a multi-instrumentalist named Padma. He played violin, piano and all sorts of stuff. I can confirm that having a horn and strings section really helps add depth and amplifies the sound. Makes songs sound more epic. I like epic.

The band started off with the track Runaway, off their new album, High Violet. The stage had some nice lighting for this song, including two shiny disco balls set on the floor that provided some trippy effect. Sadly, they never utilized the disco balls again. Matt Berninger’s baritone voice carries so well in Massey Hall. The song was quickly followed by fan favorite Mistaken For Strangers and then another new song, Anyone’s Ghost, to which he said

Matt: The following song is a new song. Wait.. so was the first one. Nevermind

I found that to be rather humourous. After the third song, the photographers had to scram (usual 3 song photo limit) and sensing that this might be a sit down show, Matt quickly went into the crowd encouraging everyone to stand up, and as usual per Massey Hall show, everyone then made a beeline for the front. On a side note, I know a few of my respected colleagues are concert photographers, but it is pretty funny watching them scurry around each other when you are far away. Just sayin. They do a good job though.

The rest of the 2 hour set consisted of the band taking much of material from their most recent albums. As a casual fan, I was impressed at how good they sounded, but some of the songs did sound kinda-samey. I guess this is what you get when the lead singers delivery is so unique. Having said that, Berninger is a great front man, he has good crowd banter, is intense when he needs to be and humourous when the moment calls for that. He can scream the hell out of the microphone as well. I think in another life, Matt Berninger could have either been a college professor or a ship captain.

Highlights for me included all the songs I knew and especially the song Abel, which featured Matt heading directly into the crowd on what must be the world’s longest microphone cord. He could have went to Frans and ordered a corn beef sandwich if he wanted, the chord was that long. He would later repeat the trick for the encore performance of Mr. November, which I had mistaken told Paul was called ‘Ms October‘. Yup, music expert here!

All in all, a great night of music at Massey Hall. My ears were ringing. I thought Massey Hall had volume control, so I didn’t bring earplugs, but let me tell you, it was definitely worth it. Go check them out tonight. They might play Lit Up.

I shazammed all the songs while at the concert to come up with this play list.

Runaway
Mistaken For Strangers
Anyone’s Ghost
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Secret Meeting
Slow Show
Squalor Victoria
Afraid Of Everyone
Little Faith
All The Wine
Available
Conversation 16
Apartment Song
The Geese of Beverly Road
Abel
Daughters Of The Soho Riots
England
Fake Empire

90-Mile Water Wall
Lemonworld
Mr. November
Terrible Love

About Today

Just kidding, I got it off setlist.fm

The National – Conversation 16 by wereofftherails

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Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

3 Responses to Concert Review: The National, June 8th, Massey Hall

  1. Paul

    Matt Berninger is hilarious. A totally engaging frontman. Not being a big fan, I was surprised at how much I loved this show.

    And Ricky, I didn’t even notice that you gave Mr. November a sex change and made him a month earlier. Another music expert here. Maybe Ms. October can be the answer song. I’ll start writing it right now.

  2. KR

    Ricky, sorry if this will sound annoying. Can you change ‘He could of’ to ‘He could’ve’ OR ‘He could have’? It’s in the the second last paragraph. It’s just one of those things that break such a good article.

  3. Ricky

    of course! done.

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