The National at Massey Hall
Even though it was their first of two Toronto shows, The National didn't seem to be holding anything back last night at Massey Hall. Playing for over two hours, they breathed fresh life into songs both new and old. More surprisingly, front-man Matt Berninger proved he has something of a Jesus Lizard streak. While he never actually stage-dived, he did calmly enter the crowd on at least three occasions.
The first of these was an early set effort to wake-up the typically subdued Toronto crowd. Berninger hopped off the stage and pulled a man out of his seat -- to dance, it seemed -- then repeated this with several others. Eventually, the rest of the crowd took the hint and rose to their feet, where they stayed for the remainder of the show (moments later, right before "Secret Meeting," Berninger joked that the audience can now sit again).
The second and third instances of audience interaction were more immersive. The hysteria reaches its peak in the "Abel" video below, with Berninger getting all Robert Benigni and winding his way thorough the crowd on seats and arm rests. As you can see in the video, his path lead him down the row in front of me. Around this time, his microphone chord threw a nearby fan's glasses a few rows forward, but they were quickly recovered.
While The National's recent preoccupation with downtempo songwriting might suggest the potential for a dull, one-note performance, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only did Berninger shout his way through several songs, but his spastic moves on stage were worthy of Ian Curtis. All this and the band's undeniable virtuosity as songwriters/musicians made for a rock show of powerful, yet playful, urgency. -- JD