The National

One of the two opening bands for the REM show I saw a few weeks ago in Chicago was The National.

Like everyone else, I was a fan of the band prior to seeing them live, but since seeing them live, I’m sort of obsessed. They truly are great. It’s so interesting how crucial (for me at least, though I doubt I’m alone on this) it is to see a band play live to sort of fill in the aural blanks that you can’t quite get by listening to a recording.

The band Tore. It. Up. No easy feat for the first of three bands. The massive hockey arena was maybe a quarter full, and of those people I’d say maybe 10% were fans of the band…at the beginning of the band’s set. By the end of the set, I’d say pretty much everyone there was on their feet cheering.

It’s a dodgy thing being an opening band. Bands often covet these spots only to get them and suffer all sorts of indignities when touring with a larger band. Too often, the ultimate indignity is that they really accomplish little or nothing by taking the gigs (random act of improvement).

However, every now and then, it works wonderfully. Such was the case with The National. They definitely made some fans who likely would never have been fans had they not been opening for REM.

This is also a strong indicator of a band’s prospects. Opening bands who tear it up tend not to stay opening bands for long. Consider, for example, REM’s early opening gigs where they completely destroyed the headliners. While The National didn’t outperform REM (I don’t think there’s a band in the world who could have outperformed REM that night), they certainly comported themselves in a righteous manner.

Check out some of these fantastic The National performances from their Daytrotter session (via Wolfgang’s Vault). Don’t skip over “Pretty in Pink.” In fact, hearing the National’s take on the track should compel you to listen to the Furs’ Wolfgang’s Vault concerts (they have three!). And, yeah, I’ll embed – so you can “A/B” them – the Furs doing PinP at the end.

As a last point, if you already like The National (or if these tracks from the Daytrotter session makes you dig them) you must check out Willard Grant Conspiracy. They’ve been making some of the most beautiful/powerful/literate chamber-folk-pop for quite some time. Hear for yourself: HERE.

On to the music:

The National Daytrotter sessions:

The Furs from Wolfgang’s Vault:

[On to the disclaimers:
•I do some work for both Daytrotter and Wolfgang’s Vault.
•I put out several, and a played on a few of the WGC records, and I played with the band every chance I could.]

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