I enjoyed this part of the introduction:
we’d gotten word that the group would strip its sound way down for the occasion, sticking to two acoustic guitars and a bit of hand percussion. What we got instead was a fully fleshed-out septet, complete with horns and piano; the band showed up at 9:30 to rehearse and sound-check.
Though singer Matt Berninger had barely rested his voice from a show in the area the night before, The National dutifully performed gorgeous acoustic renditions of four tracks from its fine new album, Trouble Will Find Me.
I like the way the first song “This is the Last Time” starts quietly with just some acoustic guitars (playing quite interesting chords too) but builds, adding more and more instruments. It grows and grows until it hits a new section where there’s a trumpet solo that fits perfectly in the song. This new section introduces the second half of the song which never returns to the first part. The backing vocals–between the guys singing the lines and the other guys singing the high “ahhh” that almost sounds like a horn–also work great together. It’s a wonderfully full song.
“I Need My Girl” has a cool part with the two guitars. They play a simple picked melody, but after the second verse, the second guitars plays it one step after the first, making it sound like an echo. And again that lone trumpet sounds terrific here. This song is a bit more mellow. In fact, this whole acoustic vibe sounds different from what I expect from the band.
The third song “Pink Rabbits” begins as primarily piano with lots of backing vocals. But again the song builds slowly (with trumpet and trombone). And again, after the horns go down there’s a backing voice that sounds a bit like muted trumpet.
Through the whole concert, I love Berninger’s casual demeanor while singing–hands in pockets, gently swaying.
Bob tells them that they are performing Tiny Desk’s first encore. The blurb notes that the band:
even treated the hundreds of worshipful gawkers to Building 2.0’s first-ever Tiny Desk encore, in response to a roar of applause that could be heard in the far reaches of the newsroom downstairs.
Berninger says this is usually when they run back stage to piss but we’ll just go behind your desk. Bob jokes that it’s no different from the trombone spit that he sees back there.
Berninger introduces “Sea of Love” by saying this is the only song we’ve ever written with a harmonica in it…and its the last one.
The full band sings and it sounds terrific. I especially like the pause in the line “they say love is a virtue don’t….they” is pretty dramatic. And I am tickled by the final lines of the song (while the backing singers do some great work: “I see you rushing down / tell me how to reach you / I see you rushing down / what did Harvard teach you.”
The National are usually more dramatic, I believe–almost theatrical, but this quieter version is really quite enjoyable.
[READ: April 2, 2016] Feathers
Jorge Corona introduces this book by explaining that he had an idea for a Beauty and the Beast kind of story that features a boy with feathers. And it slowly expanded into the story we have here.
The story opens with a bright white city in the distance. In the foreground, there’s some dark Victorian-looking houses. And as we zoom in, we learn that the dark city is known as the Maze. And in this Maze live the poor. Little kids, called “mice” are street urchins who run all over the Maze. And then there’s a man with a beard. The man finds a baby in an alley. The baby is born with feathers and he decides to take the boy in and raise him.
The scene jumps to eleven years later. The boy, known as Poe has grown up and has stayed hidden. He still has feathers and he goes out at night, but no one knows about him. People just speak of the ghost–Poe–who swoops down unseen and does things (mostly to help the poorest) and then flees. (more…)