Tracks Monkeys With Lasers

The National @ Electric Ballroom – 05/05
May 10, 2010, 9:10 pm
Filed under: gigs, music | Tags: , ,

It’s fair to say that I have not been a long time fan of The National; in fact I only got into them a few months ago after a friend had been going on about how much he was looking forward to the new album ‘High Violet’. And just a few days before the gig, the same friend offered me a ticket to go see them, insisting that I do so. So off to the Electric Ballroom I went!

It had been a little while since my last visit to see Metric play the Ballroom, with only the Shred Yr Face tour before that, and I have to say, it’s a venue I quite like. Tickets are normally quite reasonable, the sound system is good and the lighting is normally quite good without being too elaborate.

We arrived at the Electric Ballroom a little after the doors had opened and got ourselves down the front of the venue while the support act Buke And Gass were playing. Sadly, I thought they were a bit rubbish. It’s not very often a band bores me but they got very samey, very quickly. Their general sound consisted of an acoustic guitar which you couldn’t hear, an electric guitar playing the same chord over and over or playing a riff that sounded like a 13 year old had written it and this was all accompanied by the vocals which were okay to be fair. I just found that the songs lacked any variety between them and went on a bit too long.

Thankfully, they were the only support and so The National themselves were next on and they started the set with a haunting rendition of ‘Anyones Ghost’ from the new album which came across beautifully. In fact the majority of their first five or six songs came from the new album with ‘Afraid Of Everyone’ and ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ both getting an airing; only the fantastic rendition of ‘Secret Meeting’ broke up the run of new material. For such new songs, they sounded like they’d been playing them for years and the crowd appreciated every second of it.

After that, a good run of classics were played with the crowd getting more and more into it. The band themselves seemed to be loving every minute of it as well and they sounded great. Matt’s vocals really were something special and really do seem to mesmerise you at times. He seemed so at ease on stage when singing and when casually wandering around between his parts while the rest of the band just got on with it. As I mentioned in the intro, the lighting at the Electric Ballroom is normally pretty good and this was the case again with subtle changes of lighting being enough to enhance the experience but without distracting too much from their performance.

As good as the bulk of the set itself was, the best was most definitely saved for the encore which started with a beautiful version of ‘Runaway’ but didn’t really get going until ‘Mr November’ kicked in, sending the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Matt himself seemed to sense the change in energy from the crowd and obviously thought that the crowd was the place to be so ran into the crowd still singing. And respect to the guy for managing to make it the entire length of the venue and carry on singing (that’s one hell of a mic cable if nothing else!). And that’s where he stayed for the final song of the night with ‘Terrible Love’ rounding the night off.

Overall, it was an amazing set and a hell of a long one at just under two hours. At no point of that did my interest ever wane, which goes to prove just how great they were. The new tracks more than held their own against the old material and to anyone who had never heard of them, it would be difficult to figure out which were the new tracks. It was also impressive how easily they could flit between a real slow, melancholy tune to an all out indie-rock track.

A great night and great to see such an established act so comfortable in themselves on stage.

The National – Secret Meeting (live)

Metric @ The Electric Ballroom – 19/05
May 24, 2009, 2:51 pm
Filed under: gigs, music | Tags: , , ,

It had been a little while since I’d been to the Electric Ballroom in Camden, the last time being back in October time for the Los Campesinos! gig, and so I was looking forward both to going back to the venue and also as I was really looking forward to seeing Metric live.

The identity of the support band had been kept fairly quiet for some reason for the show and I only got there in time for their last two tracks which were pretty average to be fair so I wasn’t too fussed about missing them. In the gap after their set, I managed to wander quite easily down to the front of the stage, albeit right over to the side but for me this is a much better spot than standing halfway back in the venue just to be central. This is even more noticeable in the Electric Ballroom as for such a big venue, there’s no slope whatsoever so for a gentleman of my stature, it’s pretty crap to be any distance back. So, in what I thought was a good spot and after quite a lot of faffing on stage, Metric finally came on.

Coming out on stage in moody lighting with smoke aplenty on stage, they started out with one of the new tracks in Twighlight Galaxy, which I thought was a surprising one to open with. It actually worked very well with the understated anture of the song and the lighting with all the layers of synths going on. After that, they launched into the fantastic Help I’m Alive which was fantastic. From there on in, the pace of the set remained quite high with a lot of tracks of Fantasies with Satellite Mind, Gold Guns Girls and Collect Call all played, with Handshake being the only old track in there.

After that onslaught, the pace dropped with Emily Haines taking a bit of time out to talk to the crowd, saying that the band were happy to be playing the final show of their tour in London and how they love coming to England, saying that some of the best music has always come from here and by that she meant the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and not the Klaxons and Bloc Party, which got a few laughs from the crowd, and how that she hoped Metric could embody the two former bands. It was all a bit pretentious but setup the brilliant Gimme Sympathy in a great way. After that, we had a mix of old and new tracks, including Dead Disco, before finishing with Stadium Love which I’ve never particularly been taken with on the album but live it was so much better.

Then after the obligatory run off stage, we were treated to a great encore of Monster Hospital and a stripped down, acoustic version of Live It Out with Emily jumping off the stage to come down the front of the crowd for high fives, hugs and the like which was a really nice touch.

All in all, it was a much better show than I’d anticipated. I’d only discovered the band recently through Fantasies so was quite pleased that the majority of the set consisted of those tracks as they have a much better, layered sound than some of the older albums. But on the flipside, the older tracks are a lot more raw and the unpolished sound of some of them can be their strength as well as their weakness. And in Emily Haines, the band have a great front-woman with her going between synthesiser, guitar and vocal duties.

They’re not quite ready for stadiums, as they almost seem to believe, but for that night, the Ballroom definitely belonged to them.

Metric – Help I’m Alive (live)

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