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Last Friday night I went to see The National at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne. It was a humid night and as we waited outside a few drops of rain were falling. Once inside, Elspeth and I bagged a spot right near the stage and guarded it jealously.

The opening act was The Ned Collette Band, a three piece folk outfit lead by (you guessed it) Ned Collette. I didn’t mind these guys, great melodies, world weary vocals and a fantastic guitar solo in the middle of the show. You can check out their myspace here.

Next up was Melbourne based indie rock band Deloris. These guys were a bit more fast paced and kept the momentum going, barely pausing in between songs. You can check out their myspace here.

And then finally, it was time. Starting a little late due to a couple of technical difficulties, The National came out at about 11:30 and went on to play a stellar show. Set list included ‘Secret Meeting’, ‘Mistaken for Strangers’, ‘Brainy’, ‘Slow Show’, ‘Squalor Victoria’, ‘All the Wine’, ‘Start A War’, ‘Baby, We’ll Be Fine’, ‘Ada’ and ‘Fake Empire’. Encore was ‘Green Gloves’ followed by ‘Mr November’ and finishing with ‘About Today’.

I’m finding it hard to describe how blown away I was by their all round awesomeness. It was a bit surreal watching them and hearing the same songs that I’d been listening to over and over again being played only a few metres away.

I was stoked to hear ‘All the Wine’ about halfway through the show, as I knew that it wasn’t a regular feature of their live gigs. There are also a couple of songs that I’ll be listening to a lot more than I did before I saw them live – ‘Squalor Victoria’ was big and loud and vibrant, and I’ll be paying more attention to ‘Start A War’ as well, which I’d somehow neglected a little bit during my constant replays of their other stuff.

Another highlight for me was the multi talented Padma Newsome – the man is awesome! He played the keyboard at various stages during the show, but shined when playing the violin. He blew me away, and at one point as he played an intensely passionate solo, I had shivers running down my spine. Phenomenal.

There was also lots of interaction with the crowd – lead singer Matt Berninger jumped off the stage and came into the audience at one point, yelling into the mike and dancing with the crowd which was pretty cool. There was a bit of chatting in between songs also – people in the crowd kept calling out requests, which they ignored, until someone yelled out ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Everybody laughed, and Matt said ‘Yeah, we can play Stairway to Heaven’. A few people cheered, but quickly stopped when Matt added ‘but it’s a terrible song’.

He also talked about how they wanted to come to Australia in 2005 when ‘Alligator’ was released, but how they were too poor. He went on to say that only rich people can afford to come to Australia ‘which is fair enough, only the rich deserve to enjoy this beautiful country’. Was pretty funny.

The only complaint I have (and it’s nothing to do with the band, nor the members of the Impossibly Tall Club who decided to come and stand right in front of Elspeth and I right before The National came out on stage) was that it was really hot and humid in there. Methinks The Corner needs some air con!

Other than that, it was a truly awesome performance and I wish I’d gone to the show on the following night as well just so I could go through it all again!

Squalor Victoria – The National

Start A War – The National

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