the national

Primavera Sound Review: The National, Belle & Sebastian

Posted on by Ricky in Primavera | 1 Comment

Barcelona – Day two of Primavera Sound was obviously dedicated to Pulp but it also featured a host of other amazing bands on the bill including perennial festival headliners The National and another personal favorite in Belle and Sebastian.

Arriving shortly after 8:30 pm, I was able to make it to the Pitchfork stage in time to hear current sensation James Blake get drowned out in noise by M Ward, of all people. I wasn’t sure how his quiet as heck electronic soul music would work in an outdoor atmosphere and just as I suspected, it did not fare well. Those outside the fifty foot range of the completely packed stage got to hear both M ward and James Blake at once, much to the chagrin of most JB fans, I’m sure. Quickly realizing this mashup was going to be a disturbance, I left to join the mass migration of music fans to go see the National.

Walking towards the Llevant stage, it became apparent that almost everyone at the festival was going to see the Cincinnati, Ohio band. By the time the band took the stage shortly after nine, the field was at near capacity. Noting how pretty setting was, the group played 90 minutes of solid National music. While the tracks sounded amazing, it was tough to get into The National’s brooding brand of personal rock. We’re in Spain! At a festival! By the sea! Against a sunset! Why so serious? But despite my personal feelings, the band played a solid set of tracks new and old, highlighted by an appearance by the one and only Sufjan Stevens for the songs Afraid of Everyone and Terrible Love. “He walks among mortals” exclaims Matt as Sufjan walked off stage. I left the National before the last track to beat the crowd and grab a spot for the next act – Belle and Sebastian

It was shortly after 10:30 when Belle and Sebastian took the San Miguel stage. Starting off softly with the track I Didn’t See it Coming it took awhile for the band to find it’s groove with the crowd. As Frank noted, the band might of had some sound issues that made them seem quieter than they really were. However once the band started incorporating old time classics like Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie, the crowd started dancing and the show went uphill from there. Having seen them about five times now, I’m noticing that Belle and Sebastian, like many others veteran bands, now have a few tricks up their sleeves including having a girl applying makeup to Stuart Murdoch during the track Lord Anthony and inviting dancers on stage for what is arguably their most popular song, The Boy With The Arab Strap. Its amazing to see how far Belle and Sebastian have come as a live band, originally adversed to touring, the band now has become a polished machine capable of playing large festival crowds armed only with twee-ish tracks. Stuart Murdoch has become an accomplished and confident front man who knows exactly when he has the crowd. Highlights for me included Judy and The Dream of Horses , The Stars of Track and Field and Legal Man. The band also did their part hyping up the next band as Steve broke out the chorus of Common People during —–. The set closed with Sleep The Clock Around as expected and seeing how it is my favorite Belle and Sebastian song, it felt quite appropriate.

Pulp was up next, read the review here. Battles was pretty good from what I remembered. Day 2 at Primavera Sound had an amazing set of bands and resulted in the most amazing concert nights of my life.

Primavera Sound Review: Pulp, May 27th, San Miguel Stage

Posted on by Ricky in Primavera | 3 Comments

Barcelona – Where to even begin? This journey to see one of my favorite bands started on November 8th, 2010 when Pulp announced they were reforming to play a few select shows starting with Primavera Sound. A few frantic emails and a quick check on Expedia later, I had booked my trip to Barcelona to see them. Then there was the long six month wait which really wasn’t that long since I went to London to see my other favorite band – Suede as well as SXSW, which I consider to be the greatest music journey a music fan can make. But there I was on May 27th, listening to the National singing their baritone hearts out to pretty much everyone in Barcelona and I just kept on staring at my Iphone thinking “is it time yet?”

The anticipation for the Pulp reunion show was high throughout the festival, only elevated by the fact that Jarvis Cocker himself had taken the time to check out the festival, walking around from stage to stage just like any other common person, eliciting gasps everywhere “JAAAAAA VIS! COCK KA” the Spaniards would say as he casually strolled by. By the time Belle and Sebastian took the stage, it was pretty clear the countdown had started for everyone. How clear, you ask? Halfway through the track Legal Man, Steve from Belle and Sebastian broke into the chorus of Common People and Stuart Murdoch asked the crowd “Are you excited about who is on next? I sure am”

So there we were, at 1:45 am. Me and many diehards had just waited at the stage after Belle and Sebastian played their last song at 12:15 am. That’s an hour and a half wait. I could have gone and seen Explosions in the Sky, but just like many others, the thought of losing my close to the stage spot was unbearable so I waited it out amongst the others. People were here from all over the world. There were Brazillians there, Japanese, various European types and an army of English people. Didn’t they have a billion festivals on England to go to, I asked. Their reply was that Primavera was the best one, which warmed my heart.

At 1:45 am, the green lasers that had been hyping us up with phrases like “are you ready?” and “can you believe this is happening?” finally projected the words “Lets do this” ( or something similar ). The stage went dark and the words PULP was then spelled out on the lights in a dramatic fashion. The opening notes of Do you remember the first time was played and it was utterly one of the best moments ever. The lights slowly lit the stage to reveal Jarvis Cocker standing on two platforms looking larger than life behind a mesh curtain. He sang the opening verse before the curtain was lifted and the lights became blinding for the track’s inevitable sing-a-long explosion of a chorus. To say the energy level was high would be one of the greatest understatements of all time, it was insane. People were singing along, jumping as high as they possibly could, some people didn’t even know how to react. I was about 15-20 feet from the stage and it was just nuts. I had to take my earplugs off just so they would not accidentally get rammed into my head by the crowd. It might have been a different experience from someone who was standing a mile away, but they weren’t really here for the band anyway. This video does a pretty good job summing up the introduction:

Thus began our ninety minute of audio and visual bliss. Playing a set primarily from the two Britpop albums – His N Hers and Different Class, Pulp sounded as tight as ever and seemed well determine to re-establish themselves as one of the greatest bands from the Britpop generation. The wine sipping, glasses wearing Jarvis seemed as game as ever, still slim as a twig, still dancing only the way Jarvis can and still inspiring the crowd with carefully chosen words between sets. I’m just going to go through some of my personal highlights from the show

“Would you like to dance with me?” Jarvis asked, before the Gloria-riff of Disco 2000 sent the crowd into a dancing frenzy. There’s something to be said about singing along to one of your favorite songs of all time and being joined in by oh, twenty thousand people. One of my life goals was realized at this moment.

The green laser light show that was all too fitting for the rave inspired track Sorted For E’s and Wizz. While the rave/Madchester culture of the late 80s early 90s seemed soooooooo long ago, much of the song still resonates today and it felt very appropriate when the lyrics “is this the way the future’s meant to feel? or is this 20,000 people standing in a field?” were spoken by the man himself.

FEELINGCALLEDLOVE was a hundred thousand times better live than on album, while the track just seemed like a stopgap point on Different Class (sandwiched between Common People and Disco 2000), the quiet/slow to loud/fast tempo change of this song sounded tremendously epic live.

Hearing the entire crowd sing out the entire lyrics for the track This is Hardcore was something else.

What can you say about experiencing Common People live? In a week where protesters in Barcelona were hospitalized at the hands of the police, the stage was set for the track Common People to once again, rise above the festival. Dedicating the track to those said protesters, Common People was just an eight minute block of music that will be forever frozen in my mind as the top eight minutes of live concert music that I will ever encounter. The jubilation in the crowd was mind blowing and it was one of those moments where you will always remember what it felt like. The crowd sang and dance along to the entire track. Common People is a song about us and for us. It’s a track that speaks to your heart and makes you look at strangers around you as friends and compatriots rather then someone you should step on to elevate your own career and status. This is why the song has a place in everyone’s heart and it’s why the people lose their minds for it. An amazing experience that will never be replicated, even if I saw Pulp again.

In conclusion, for me, it was a show for the ages. To have waited sixteen years to see one of your favorite bands and then having that band exceed all expectations is rare feat. The band was tight, the set list was great, Jarvis was an amazing front man and to experience the show among thousands of die hards completely made the experience unforgettable. Best show I’ve ever seen.

Do You Remember the First Time?
Pink Glove
Pencil Skirt
Something Changed
Disco 2000
Sorted For E’s & Wizz
I Spy
This Is Hardcore
Bar Italia
Common People


What’s next? I don’t even know.

6 Reasons to get excited for Primavera

Posted on by Ricky in Primavera | Leave a comment

Barcelona – Primavera Sound is finally here, and luckily enough, the Panic Manual will be covering this annual festival in all it’s glory. I feel like there’s not the usual round of excitement you get with North American music festivals on the internet, so here are some reasons to get excited for Primavera.

Pulp is Reuniting

Need I say more? the legendary Britpop band will be playing their first show since announcing that they are reforming for 2011. It will be crazy, the singalongs will be epic and Jarvis will show us he’s still got the stuff. I’m already drinking more water so that I can release more tears of joy whenthey take the stage.


What a great place to have a music festival, forget Palm Springs or Chicago, Primavera is taking place in Barcelona, and the venue is RIGHT BESIDE THE SEA. You know what that means – post festival swimming! Did I mention that Barcelona is considered one of the culinary capitals of the world? The food is great, the weather is tremendous and it’s a festival by the sea. What more can you ask for?

Girl Talk at 5 am

So unlike other festivals, Primavera does not start at noon and end at 11. These people know how we work. Stay up late and wake up late. The first show at Primavera doesn’t start until 5 pm and the headliners don’t play until well after midnight. The last show on Friday night? Girl Talk. DJing at 5 am. Sure everyone will be tired, but if there’s ever a time to dance the night away and see the sunrise, then this will be the night.

The National, Flaming Lips and Belle and Sebastian

Three acts that been around for awhile that always, ALWAYS put on a great live show. The National have been playing a lot of high profile festivals lately, so they have undoubtedly become masters of the festival show. Flaming Lips…are just always amazing live and I’m sure Wayne Coyne and the gang have something in store for the Barcelona crowd. Belle and Sebastian are recieving a nice revival in popularity with their excellent album Write about Love. Being ableto see all these bands without scheduling conflicts will undoubtedly enhance everyone’s viewing experience.

The return of Fleet Foxes

After blowing people away with the sweet harmonies two years ago with their debut album, the Portland group is back with a new record and Primavera Sound will be one of the first places that Fleet Foxes will be showing off Helplessness Blues. I am sure that all indie fans will bath in the bearded groups awesomeness.

Primavera starts today. I am pumped.

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

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything | 3 Comments

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.

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

90-Mile Water Wall
Mr. November
Terrible Love

About Today

Just kidding, I got it off

The National – Conversation 16 by wereofftherails