I Listen CO

I Listen, CO

The National. Red Rocks Amphitheatre. 09.12.22

The National are no strangers to Red Rocks or Colorado in general (they performed in Dillon a month ago), so it wasn’t surprising that the show on Monday night was akin to a family gathering. Black and white footage of the band backstage was broadcast on the big screen while Leonard Cohen’s “I Can’t Forget” prepared the audience for what was to come.

I stumbled out of bed
I got ready for the struggle
I smoked a cigarette
And I tightened up my gut.

It did seem like the guys had just stumbled out of bed. I won’t say they seemed worn out, but their leisurely performance was out of character. Matt, usually drunk on wine, seemed like a man who had swallowed the cap he was warning us about.

Did they renovate this place? Did they make the rocks bigger?

The performance was tight. Everyone was on point. The sound was great except for when it floated away on the random gust of wind. It was a warm, moonlit night, and everything was as it should be. But something was different.

Apart from “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” “Conversation 16,” and “Mr. November,” Matt didn’t leave the stage. He was exceptionally well-behaved. The song selections presented the most brooding side of the band. The humor was still there, but it was more subdued. Blink, and you might miss it. “Slow Show” was introduced as “our one and only wedding song,” but the punchline about divorce songs was omitted. Aaron commented on the lack of enthusiasm when they announced “Grease in Your Hair” as a new song. “How exciting is this?” he said sarcastically when the crowd didn’t respond favorably enough, to which Matt replied, “The title alone deserves applause.” Then, right before the first lyrics started across the screen behind them, he added, “this is called Booby Time Cookie Pants.After that interaction, they decided not to preface the next new song with banter. “Tropic Morning News” ended with Matt sarcastically yelling, “ta-da!

I realize this might come off as negative, but I’m not trying to be. The National is one of my all-time favorite bands, and I appreciate seeing them in a different light. Like I said earlier, it was almost like a family gathering where they just performed the songs they wanted to perform without trying to impress anyone. It was an introspective start to a show where it was ok to close your eyes and let the songs follow you on your journey.

Things changed when they brought Lucy Dacus back for “Rylan,” leading to a well-received rendition of “Light Years.” (On a side note, I wish they would add more “I Am Easy to Find” songs to their set. It is such an incredible album.) The crowd went crazy for Lucy, and from then on, it started to feel more and more like other concerts I’ve attended. The run of “Pink Rabbits,” “England,” “Graceless,” and “Fake Empire” was worth the price of admission alone.

It really does look larger and more majestic than I remember. I don’t think I paid attention the other times. Now I see why The Beatles played here.

No longer only half awake in this fake empire, Matt tested his crowd-rushing skills during the encore. Mr. November struggled to get over the front railing, but once he did, he made it up at least twenty rows, screaming in people’s faces and taking selfies the entire way. The “up close and personal” crowd interaction, so common to The National shows, seemed abrupt given the overall feel of the performance, but it was fun as it always is. And ending the night with “About Today” was about as appropriate as anything could be.

Having seen The National a dozen or so times, this was a unique experience. Unique is good, though. I’m happy they were comfortable enough with their Colorado fans to switch it up and do the show they felt they needed to do.

The National Setlist: Don’t Swallow the Cap, Mistaken for Strangers, I Should Live in Salt, Bloodbuzz Ohio, The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, I Need My Girl, This Is The Last Time, Slow Show, Grease in Your Hair, Wasp Nest, Conversation 16, Tropic Morning News, Day I Die, Rylan, Light Years, Pink Rabbits, England, Graceless, Fake Empire, Weird Goodbyes, Mr. November, Terrible Love, About Today

Review and photos of Lucy Dacus can be found here.