Having seen The National perform at least ten times over the past few years, one comes to expect certain things from the band’s live set: the cathartic chorus of “Apartment Story,” the crowd sing/scream-along with “Mr. November,” and of course singer Matt Berninger’s gracefully awkward stage presence.
However, at Seattle’s Neptune Theater last Thursday night, the band comfortably dug into forgotten tracks from its two pre-Alligator albums (“Lucky You” from Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers was a personal highlight). The band neglected setlist staples such as “Abel” and “About Today” for deeper tracks, and opened with “Driver, Surprise Me,” off Alligator’s limited expanded edition.
At this point in their career, Berninger’s quirks as a front man are expected and accepted, and while his trademark bad memory for song lyrics used to seem like an annoyance to the band, when he stumbled over the first line of the opening song, it felt more like a joke that the audience was in on. “Give me a break,” he remarked, “we never play this song.” Further on in the set, he granted an audience request for “City Middle,” but only after a fan wrote out the lyrics on a giant sheet of paper and handed it to him
After jumping into the crowd for the usual “Mr. November” sing-along, Berninger returned to the stage via the lobby and proceeded to lead the sold-out crowd in an acoustic rendition of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” that sent shivers down my spine.
Wye Oak opened the show that night, filling the theater with songs off their gorgeous 2011 release Civilian. The opening chords of “Holy Holy” seared through the audience, while the haunting lyrics of the album’s title track (“I know my thoughts/but I can’t hide them”) reverberated in strange accordance with the glowing eyes of the Neptune statues placed around the theater’s walls.
Local Natives filled the middle slot with bouncy, percussive songs off 2009’s Gorilla Manor.
Photos – The National, Wye Oak, and Local Natives at the Neptune Theatre – December 1, 2011