CONCERT: The National/Owen Pallett at The Murat Egyptian Room

The first post I ever wrote for this site was about The National. That’s funny because I always seem to have trouble writing about them – I feel like no matter what I say I never quite do them justice. I think it’s a symptom of how much I actually love this band, and after seeing them again on Saturday I’m once again feeling a little inadequate at relaying the experience. I’ll do my best, but just know: it was really good.

Owen Pallett opened, and though I haven’t listened to him much, he completely blew me away. He used loop pedals to weave complex musical tapestries out of just his keyboard and violin, with added flourishes provided by his drummer/bassist/guitarist/whistler, Thomas Gill – creating a lush and intimate sound that was completely entrancing. He performed a slew of songs from this year’s Heartland (which I’ve promptly repented for ignoring so long – these songs are beautiful), and its accompanying EP, A Swedish Love Story. In fact, two of my favorite songs of the whole night were off that EP – “Scandal At The Parkade” and “A Man With No Ankles”. Take a listen:

mp3: Owen Pallett – A Man With No Ankles
from the EP A Swedish Love Story (buy it here)

After Pallett’s fantastic set, The National entered in darkness and opened with “Runaway”, lit only by the stage backlighting. It was a haunting and gorgeous rendition of the subtle High Violet standout – a perfect introduction to what would be a rock solid show. They immediately picked it up after “Runaway’s” languid pace with the more traditionally rocking “Anyone’s Ghost” and “Mistaken for Strangers”, and then barreled right into the near-perfect “Bloodbuzz Ohio.” I was expecting them to save that song for later in the set, but no, they pulled it out right at the beginning – and I knew right then that this was going to be a fantastic set. When your catalog’s so strong you can put a song like “Ohio” right up front and know the rest of your set can live up to it, you’re going to have an amazing live show. And they did.

The band was supported by the trusty Padma Newsome on keys and strings, plus a mini- horn section that filled out the sound laid down by the Devendorf and Dessner brothers’ lush instrumentation, especially remarkable on numbers like “Squalor Victoria” and “Fake Empire.” Frankly, the band has never sounded better. Matt Berninger was in great spirits, making jokes with the Dessners about meeting Mary Poppins backstage, and how much of a diva she was (Mary Poppins was also playing at the Murat that night). Their stage banter was actually endearing: the Dessners describing how they tried to talk Matt out of singing about eating people’s brains on “Conversation 16”, Matt explaining how that’s not metaphorical, Aaron explaining how none of them really know what they’re saying at the end of “Secret Meeting.” I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure Matt said that “Afraid of Everyone” was “about the news”, which completely opened up that song in a new way for me. They played some of my all-time favorites like “Slow Show”, “Apartment Story” and “Green Gloves” along with new classics like “Sorrow” and “England” (which somehow sounded even lovelier live). A four-song encore included a heart-stopping rendition of “Mr. November” with Matt jumping down and wandering throughout the sold-out crowd as they fist-pumped along to its endlessly cathartic chorus, and they ended the night with a gorgeous take of “Terrible Love.”

So yeah. The show was really good. Click on for pictures and setlists.

mp3: The National – Runaway
from the album High Violet (buy it here)

Owen Pallett:

The National:

Matt on the bar, supported by fans just before jumping down into the crowd…

[Pics taken by Kristin]

Owen Pallet’s setlist:

E is for Estranged

This is the Dream of Win and Regine

Scandal at the Parkade

A Man with No Ankles

This Lamb Sells Condos

The Great Elsewhere

Lewis Takes Action

Many Lives -> 49 MP

Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

The National’s setlist:


Anyone’s Ghost

Mistaken for Strangers

Bloodbuzz Ohio

Slow Show

Squalor Victoria

Afraid of Everyone

All the Wine

Conversation 16

Apartment Story



Green Gloves


Fake Empire


Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

Secret Meeting

Mr. November

Terrible Love

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  1. briggadoon’s avatar

    What a great National song. How cool that you guys got to go see them, and from the pictures, be quite close (unlike Lollapalooza).

  2. jayrig5’s avatar

    Thanks for posting the setlist, I was trying to remember it and I’d definitely left a few out of my recollection. From the pictures, I was about 10 feet behind you, it was certainly an interesting atmosphere, and they did absolutely sound fantastic.

    My ears rang for about 24 hours, but then, I was about 20 feet from the stack of amps/speakers on the left, so I guess that’s fitting.

    Fake Empire sounded fantastic. What a great rendition, I wish I had that recorded.

  3. Tobler’s avatar

    Yeah we don’t go up to the front for many shows anymore (we must be getting old or something… we even bring earplugs nowadays!) – but I’m so glad we did for this one. The National are just so rewarding to see up close and personal (not to mention Owen Pallett)!

    jayrig5 – glad my scrupulous note-taking during shows pays off sometimes! If you’re interested in a live recording of Fake Empire pretty close to how they played it on Sat check here: It’s a pretty incredible show too – nyctaper actually has a couple of great National shows archived.

  4. Brendan’s avatar

    I’m so freaking jealous of you. That sounds like it was an awesome show, but then again would we expect anything less form the National. I’ve been really wandering about those “brain eating” lyrics and I was wondering if “I’m Afraid of Everyone” was about the news or something like that. Glad you could clear that up for me.

  5. Iphi’s avatar

    Found your blog through the Hypemachine. I saw The National at ACL (fantastic), and I just wanted to add that during that show, they also talked about Conversation 16. They said it was about marriage and cannibals.

    I love them.


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