I don’t normally review shows by a band so close together, but I had to make a special concession for The National due to the venue they were playing. I just saw them a couple months ago at House Of Vans, a nice open space that isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination. Last night they played at the Civic Opera House, a gigantic 3,500 seater the scale of which you really need to see in person to understand. I’d only been there once before, to see Wilco play on their “Shrinking Venue Tour.” We were seated all the way at the top and it was like being at the top of the Hancock Building. Taking photos at House of Vans was amazing because they have a pit and it’s a fairly small stage. The photos at the Opera House were blocked by people standing because they don’t do a pit and you have to kind of shoot around heads from far away. Not ideal, but I figured when else will I have the chance to shoot a show there.
For years I didn’t see The National at all. Between Boxer and when High Violet came out we drove from Des Moines to Minneapolis to see them at First Ave. Then I didn’t seen them again til this year. I just wasn’t a big fan of the records after Boxer. That changed when Sleep Well Beast came out (and to a lesser extent the El Vy record Matt made, which I liked a lot). It’s a return to form for a band that I felt was stuck in a rut, making the same music over and over again. SWB will be in my top albums of the year, and the song “Guilty Party” made my list of favorites as well.