Tuesday night I got the privilege to take in The National in their first of four sold-out shows this week at the Chicago Theatre. The band, according to front man Matt Berninger, is comprised of progressive, liberal, white guys from Cincinnati.
I say I felt privileged because when you see this band in concert, it feels like an intimate gathering of friends chilling to music and drinking. And besides, any time you can see a band of this talent and stature in a setting as cozy as the Chicago Theatre, you should definitely consider it a privilege.
We are branching out here with the subjects we will cover, and we want to bring you some elements of pop culture, yet there is a Cubs connection in the end. The National is starting to become known on a larger scale, appearing recently on both Saturday Night Live and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The venue was packed with a demographic that could easily pass for a Cubs night game crowd.
@TomLoxas Im still here!!
— Silvy (@WaddleandSilvy) April 16, 2014
The Sun Times' Matt Guarino featured the band in a nice piece yesterday.
A wider audience is discovering what others had before: The band’s needle-sharp guitar lines, tricky rhythms, stadium-worthy choruses, and the dark romance and wry humor of Berninger’s lyrics.
The show focused on much of the band's newest album, and sixth overall, “Trouble Will Find Me.” The National is entering another dimension, actually becoming what their name indicates. Berninger talked about the band's music and style:
And we do things in our personal lives and we get behind things, whether it’s Obama or gay marriage. But we don’t write songs with an agenda to tell people something about something. It’s mostly expressions of ourselves. For me, with the lyrics, it’s abstract paintings of feelings. Or just states of mind, or expressions of anxieties. The music I always connected with the most was just somebody expressing what it’s like to be a human being in the world and that it is complicated and hard. Whether it’s Guided By Voices or Cat Power or Leonard Cohen or R.E.M. or the Smiths.
Berninger strikes an interesting figure onstage, looking almost professor-ish; an awkwardly tall, hunched-over figure, decked out in an Amish black suit getup. It is indeed a look. At first blush it's as if he was a character Will Ferrell would conceive, but there are also some elements of Heisenberg (Breaking Bad finale) mixed in there as well.
And The National certainly has a sound. Berninger has a haunting, yet still soothing, baritone, and the band plays with a chemistry that makes their ten-year run come as little surprise. When he's not hovering over the microphone during lyrics, Berninger scours the stages if he was looking for something, only to go right back to belting out his stylings.
"Bloodbuzz Ohio," "Don't Swallow the Cap," and "Graceless" were just some highlights of the set list.
We have heard so much about the word "Process" and how Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer follow theirs in rebuilding the Cubs organization. When it comes to the songwriting process, Berninger says he relies upon two major tools: headphones and wine, and plenty of the latter.
When you think about this process the Cubs are currently entrenched in, wine sounds like it could be a very useful ingredient, at least for the fans who have suffered through it. The Cubs aren't a band, and they're certainly not an organization that lacks for national exposure. But they are looking to rediscover an identity, a sound if you will, as a team.
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Filed under: Pop Culture