Last night I went to see The National in concert at the Uptown Theater here in Kansas City. I arrived just as the lone supporting act was beginning his set. The opening act was Owen Pallett, a Canadian violinist who is best known as the string arranger for the alternative band The Arcade Fire. Pallett performed half his set solo and the other half with a back-up instrumentalist who added minimalist flourishes of percussion and electric guitar.
Pallett’s performance was astonishing. He builds each of his songs from the ground up. He begins by playing a repetitive line which he records and loops. He then adds other lines which are overdubbed and looped. These looped tracks may be a melody on the violin or chords on his synthesizer. They may also include him percussively tapping the violin, playing with the wooden side of the bow, or even screaming into the electric pickup on the bridge of the violin. As a result each song builds into a frenzy of sound. Pallett then uses effects pedals to modulate the speed and tone of the recorded parts. Or, instead of trying to imagine my description, check out these videos of Pallett creating his art in concert:
Here is a video of Pallett playing “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” at a festival in Guelph. (The performance occurs during a rainstorm.)
Or, better yet, check out this video which gives you another feel for what he is like in concert.
After the show I had the chance to chat with Owen Pallett and he was exceedingly gracious.
With only one opening act, The National came on around 9:15. I was delighted to see that they were touring not just as a 5-piece band, but with two horn players and also talented violinist, keyboardist, accordion player, and back-up vocalist Padma Newsome. It was great to hear them with their full sound.
The concert was just about everything I wanted it to be. Their set covered mostly songs from their last two albums. The band was tight musically, but also somewhat relaxed on stage for a band that carries so much tension in their music. My only complaints were that the crowd didn’t seem as electric as I had hoped and that I wished they had played longer. Their 90 minute performance wasn’t enough for me.
Here is the set list in case you are interested:
RunawayA few notes:
Mistaken for Strangers
Afraid of Everyone
Available / Cardinal Song (Medley)
Conversation 16 (I think this is their worst song.)
Apartment Story (I think this is their best song.)
Daughters of the SoHo Riots
All the Wine
“All the Wine” is fast becoming one of my favorite songs and their rendition of it was perfect.
I had always known that “Abel” was an energetic song but the passion they brought to it was surprising.
I am surprised they decided not to play “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” a song of their latest album that they seem to be promoting.
I picked up a “Bloodbuzz Ohio” themed T-shirt, red on red, with the image of the state of Ohio rendered in what appears to be spattered blood. The shirt looks cool, not creepy. Really it does.