Two nights of THE NATIONAL in Vancouver – View from the front row! Songs from the chairs! Penis jokes! Meeting Matt Berninger!

Matt Berninger, The National, pic by Mikala Taylor/

So, it’d be prudent to give you a breakdown of the awesome that was two nights in a row of the National in Vancouver, right? Too bad. Half the local press have done that. Here’s what you need to know about why I love The National, and here’s the setlists from the November 28th show and the November 29th show, both at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver. The end.

No, what you need to know about The National in Vancouver is as follows: singer Matt Berninger, the great big red wino that he is, was a little drunker and a little looser on the second show, but equally charming. He poured wine from the bottle frequently and gave the bottle Matt Berninger, The National, pic by Mikala Taylor/backstagerider.comaway at the end.

On both nights he hopped into the audience singing “Terrible Love” (night 1) and “Mr. November” (night 2) surrounded by crowd. He sang next to me, grinning like a loon. He swerved into friends who were in the audience. He stat in chairs and climbed over them. And the band – those excellent brother musicians, all – played on. They sounded stellar in the way that a band which has been touring its High Violet album for nearly 1.5 years, could sound.

The differences? Besides the setlists (a raging “Abel” on night 1 and a storming “Squalor Victoria” on night 2, some chiller “Son” and “Sons and Daughters of the Soho Riots” on night 2), there wasn’t much to differentiate. One show was not better, not vastly different from the other. Both were superb. And you should have been there.

But on night 1, as I left the venue minutes after a stellar unplugged, un-mic’d version at the lip of the stage of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”, (see the video, though from Night 2), I saw a tall, handsome strawberry blonde dash outside and towards a van. Without thinking I gasped, and my GroupieDar (TM) sounded and off I went: “MATT! MATT! MATT!” I gasped and ran around side to the van without thinking. He was the only one in it, ready to be whisked away, but opened the door to allow me room to gush on him. We held hands. Okay, shook them. He was, and is, charismatic and beautiful and a little part of me screamed inside.

On the second night, after hanging out with my friends Jenn and Andy in Wye Oak who played on the Tuesday, I spotted both National twins, Bryce and Aaron Dessner, watching the indiepop of openers Local Natives, and we chatted. It was good. (Though for a few seconds, I wondered if I was introducing myself to the same guy. It was dark and really? Twins should not both wear blue button-down collared shirts and black jeans.)

But the thing that stood out? The thing that really made me love The National this time? THE BANTER. The National might seem like serious and kinda chilly musos, but NO. They like a batch of dick references just like the rest of us. Amen.

To wit:Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner, The National, pic by Mikala Taylor/

Night 1

Aaron: “We might go on a sea plane to Vancouver Island tomorrow. Well, we might, but he [pointing to Matt] won’t.”
Matt: “There’s a plane that goes under the sea?”
Aaron: “No, it lands ON IT.”
Audience member: “Something something something hot tub orgy!”
Matt: “Woo! Yeah let’s do that. Actually no. I don’t like either of those things. Like, I really, really don’t.”

Matt introducing the horn section: “This is Dave Nelson and Kyle Resnick…their nicknames are ‘Kyle and David’…Actually, their real nicknames can’t be shared here because they mostly involve penis references. Like, Mr. Penis. Or Doctor Penis. Or Professor Penis…[cracks up]”
Aaron and Bryce hang their heads, shaking them.
Matt: “This is totally unscripted…”

Night 2:

Bryce: “I’d like to say hi to a guy who I met in an Irish bar in Tokyo who was from here. So, hi
Matt: “You sound like Jason Bourne. All worldly! Like, ‘I was in Kuala Lumpur on assignment and I met this Canadian guy…’”
Bryce: “But it’s true! He emailed me!”
Bryce Dessner and Bryan Devendorf, The National, pic by Mikala Taylor/

Matt: “Last night I went on a 5 minute rant of dick jokes, so you’re lucky you’re not getting that.” [audience laughs]
Bryce: “Yeah, but you just interrupted the beginning of a song to tell them that”

Matt:  “The dick jokes? I’ll write ’em down, share ’em on the internet. They’re dumb. I’m basically 2 years old.”

Aaron: “Here’s a creepy song.”
Matt: “It’s not creepy – it’s about love and loss. Actually it is creepy because it doesn’t have a melody.”
Bryce: “Like our other songs, which also don’t have melody”
Matt: “Fuck off!” [laughs then launches into “Apartment Song” then afterwards…]
Matt: “See? That had melody! Did you like that little lift I did there at the end?” [everyone laughs…a lot]
Aaron deadpans: “We need to get back into character.”
[Matt pretends to wipe smile off of his face, audience laughs and cheers]
Matt: “Woo? You guys are all like cheering ‘cos we’re awkward? It’s like, FUCK YEAH! They’re awkward! [Throws the horns \m/ \m/]

Exeunt. Thank you and good nights, National. Enjoy the pics, and the video, though apologies…. they’re only from my point and shoot. \m/

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