For such a dour and dramatic band, the National sure proved to be a bunch of funny guys in their latest stopover in the Twin Cities on Tuesday, which included a public taping for 89.3 the Current earlier in the day in addition to their Roy Wilkins Auditorium concert Tuesday.
After the angsty “Squalor Victoria” pretty well raised the way-too-high roof on the Roy, for instance, singer Matt Berninger noted that the next song, “I Need Me Girl,” had “no anger in it at all.” One of the guitar-wielding Dessner brothers glibly responded, “Should we skip it?”
Likewise, while introducing “Slow Show,” Berninger made a reference to the fact that the song has become a favorite at weddings. “Which is kinda weird, because there’s a [penis] reference in it,” he added. “You don’t want your grandparents dancing to that.”
I honestly expected the worse of the Wilkins show acoustically, and thus I thought the taping in the Current’s pristine UBS Forum would be the perfect alternative. Turns out, most of the new songs proved a lot more powerful at Tuesday night’s, especially “Graceless” and “Sea of Love” (the other four songs in the afternoon set also came from “Trouble Will Find Me”.) The Current gig offered more proof of the guys’ good humor, though. When host Mary Lucia asked Berninger to introduce his bandmates, he replied, “I don’t know most of their first names.” And when she compared him to Iggy Pop crawling through the crowd at shows, even including Lollapalooza this past weekend, he added, “He usually looks better doing it than I do.”
The interview got rather serious at times, too, such as when Berninger talked about the familial conflict at the heart of the new National documentary, “Mistaken For Strangers,” shot by his kid brother. Lucia also asked about the lyric in “Don’t Swallow the Cap:” “If you want to see me cry, play ‘Let It Be’ or ‘Nevermind.’” He didn’t answer which “Let It Be” record he had in mind, the Beatles’ or the Replacements’, except to say that the latter meant more to him. He did note, though, that all three of those records (counting Nirvana’s) “has a sadness to them,” brought on by the deaths in each band. It always comes back around to something depressing with these guys.
You can hear the National’s Current session on air next Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. Here’s the set list from Wilkins Auditorium:
I Should Live In Salt / Don’t Swallow the Cap / Bloodbuzz Ohio / Secret Meeting / Sea of Love / Demons / Afraid of Everyone / Conversation 16 / Squalor Victoria / I Need My Girl / This Is the Last Time / Sorrow / Abel / Slow Show / Pink Rabbits / Graceless / England / About Today / Fake Empire ENCORE: Humiliation / Mr. November / Terrible Love / Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks