SHOW REVIEW: The National at Fox Theater, Pomona, CA – 10/16/10

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After fruitlessly attempting for months to get free ticket’s to Friday’s LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, and Sleigh Bells show, I thought my weekend would be full of eating twizzlers while watching youtube videos of live LCD Soundsystem performances, weeping silently while texting friends at the show. However, I was SAVED by my summer-bought tickets to see The National and Owen Pallett! To be honest, I didn’t really think it would compare. I severely underestimated the effects a looping machine, Matt Berninger, and a general admission show can have on me.

Owen Pallett came on around 9 to the delight of an already-well-crowded Fox Theater and several extremely excited fans to my left. Just a boy and his violin. BUT THEN HE STARTS WITH THIS LOOPING! Pallett would play 9 seconds of awesome, and then tap his foot, and play something else, and tap his foot, and play something else, and tap his foot, and all the while he was building and building up these beautiful compositions, weaving parts in and out all while singing and occasionally screaming into what was presumably his violin’s mic.

Pallett messed up once, chuckled “Haha, I don’t even know what these buttons do” and then picked up again a half second later as if nothing happened. WHAT? HOW? The set went along, playing hits off Heartland and his recent EP A Swedish Love Story. Towards the end Pallett asked the crowd if we had any questions at all. All one guy could come up with was “Why is Justin Beiber on his guitar?” (gesturing towards the guitarist who had come out to accompany Pallett, Thomas Gill) to which Pallett replied “That’s a personal question.” Gill said something about being tight-knit in Canada… idk.

Did I mention Pallett is the cutest?

Anyway, an half hour later the lights went down and a violet (LOL GET IT?) backdrop lit up. The band stomped out to our applause, obviously, and the show began. I don’t even have the words to describe how incredible this show ended up being, but I’m a blogger so I guess I’m going to try. I should start by mentioning that I go to a good number of shows a year/season/month, and this is one of the best that I’ve been to in a LONG while. Also, I had a really really really crappy migraine and it was STILL stellar.

The set started out with “Runaway,” which, to be honest, I could take it or leave it. But pretty much from there on out they played my favorite song after my other favorite song after my other favorite song. At the end of Mistaken For Strangers the whole crowd got silent as the trumpeter and trombonist played it out. It was amazing. Might I add that my high school senior yearbook bio was lyrics from this song (“another uninnocent, elegant fall into the unmagnificent lives of adults”) so I got particularly emotion. I do love that song.

Vocalist Matt Berninger and the adorable guitarist brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner bantered all night between songs, and found it particularly amusing to introduce each song as about this or that or dedicated to so and so: Conversation 16 is about cannibalism, Abel is dedicated to the bible, England is for “our staunch ally through the war” and Mr. November is an encouragement to vote, and specifically dedicated to “the blue people.” It actually made it super fun for us National-educated people to know what song was coming up. Berninger also has a thing for yelling unmic’ed things out into the crowd, which is totally adorable and heartfelt but also completely inaudible and kind of sad.

Pretty much every song where Berninger screams or yells violently was my favorite, particularly Abel and Mr. November. Other highlights included Mistaken For Strangers, Afraid of Everyone, Fake Empire, Terrible Love and Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. During Terrible Love, Berninger climbed off stage and into the crowd on the far right side of the theater, and then proceeded to walk/sing/scream back to the rear of the lower level, holding hands as he serenaded individuals. It was rousing to say the least.

The encore closed with an unplugged version of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, with Owen Pallett joining in on violin. The band begged for a few moments of silence, but as soon as Berninger started singing the whole crowd erupted into a giant sing-along choral group. It was pretty lovely, although I do wish I could have heard his voice belted out alone over a quiet crowd. Actually forget the crowd, I wish it was just belted out to me.

Superb show, superb musicians. Go see them if you get a chance!
Setlist:
Runaway
Anyone’s Ghost
Mistaken For Strangers
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Slow Show
Squalor Victoria
Afraid Of Everyone
Available
Conversation 16
Apartment Story
Sorrow
Abel
Daughters Of The Soho Riots
England
Fake Empire
Encore:
Mr. November
Terrible Love
About Today
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

Reviewed by Ari Mygatt.
Photos by Ari Mygatt. October 2010. Cellphone.

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