After you've seen a band 9 times, the expectations around the 10th concert are certainly special. Not because you wonder what you would see this time, in the end you know what to expect. However, the desire of making this show special, one to remember, is certainly there. The National played Wednesday night (Sep 7, 2011) at the beautiful Academy of Music in Philadelphia, as part of the Kimmel Center concert series. An amazing opera house that appeared to be just right for the occasion, a venue that feels and looks certainly different to the 9 different stages I’ve seen the band before, exceeding by far my expectations for the night.
No objectivity should be expected from this post. Everyone knows The National is by far my favorite band, being the main soundtrack of my life for quite sometime now, describing my hopes, dreams, anxiety and love. But, one thing was clear from the beginning. Since the time I heard them live from the first time, I never doubted they would make it to the top and it always seemed clear they would reach that place only accessible to a few… For once, I was right.
Seeing them now, feels just right. The struggles early in their career about reaching to people, about finding their audience seem so foreign now. Their show nowadays tells a different story, one about a successful band, “favorite” to many. A band that through great music, strong lyrics and powerful performances captivates the audience, which, as seen on Wednesday now expands through a range of cultural, age and social groups. Their concert this week not only surprised me again, but it also showed me that even now when they’ve achieved success, they approach things with that subtle, natural and mature approach that made me follow them in the first place. Attending my 10th The National concert at a perfect venue, on a weekday date with my wife, in the city that for many reasons has become our home was certainly special after all.
The set-list could not be better, and included some of my all time favorites. Songs like “Brainy”, “Slow Show”, “Son”, “Sorrow”, “Green Gloves”, “Abel”, “Fake Empire” were well scattered through the night. This tour, which appears to be in its latest stage, represents for the band about 12 years of playing together. And probably because of this, the band has included old songs on a regular basis at the core of their live shows. “Son”, a track from their very first album is a clear example of this. This song has been one of my favorites for years and hearing it live for the first time on Wednesday was certainly special. Also for the first time, the band decided to close the night with an acoustic version of a very personal song “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”. Here, the audience softly joined the aching chorus “All the very best of us, string ourselves up for love”, a perfect ending to a great night.
I leave you with the set-list and a couple of videos of that wonderful night. First “Sorrow” a favorite of many, followed by “Terrible Love” where Berninger jumped into the audience going across the seats of the Academy of Music. Finally, a clip of “Son”, which also includes "About Today" from the recent Latitude festival in England…this one to those “fans” scratching their heads and looking for this song in their failed ITunes library...
The National - Set-list
Academy of Music – Philadelphia
Sep 7 2011
2. Anyone's Ghost
4. Bloodbuzz Ohio
5. Slow Show
6. Squalor Victoria
7. Afraid of Everyone
8. Conversation 16
9. Little Faith
11. Wasp Nest
14. Green Gloves
16. Fake Empire
17. Think You Can Wait
18. Mr. November
19. Terrible Love
20. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
Sorrow – Academy of Music Philadelphia
Terrible Love – Academy of Music Philadelphia
Son / About Today – Latitude Festival
Manu Chao played last Friday night (September 2, 2011) at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, this time with a more subtle but equally intense band, his new “La Ventura”. This show represented the second stop of his 2011 US tour, covering for the most part relevant venues in the East Coast and closing at the upcoming Austin City Limits festival.
Many times in this blog we tend to embellish and celebrate the work of emerging artists. We are proud of discovering new voices and we enjoy seeing them grow and eventually become what we all think they should. Also, from time to time, we are amazed and overpowered by the size of those that have conquered the world through their music and ideals.
Manu Chao represents for sure one of the latter, an icon to current alternative music; a symbol that have crossed over languages, political views and music genres. Ironically, for those of us that are old and wise enough to remember, he emerged back in the early 90’s from the streets of Paris, along with his ultra-alternative band Mano Negra, combining odd recordings of Afro-punk-latin-rock. In 1995, he abandoned Mano Negra and decided to travel through Latin America. Here he went off, recording and playing music from the streets, and inundating himself into the culture of the needed, the unheard. His experiences evolved into his 1998 masterpiece and first solo album “Clandestino”, if you ask me, one of the best albums of all times.
Descriptions of Manu Chao come in dozens. Spanish-born/French-bred Manu Chao is now a worldwide star that writes songs in a multitude of languages (more than 7), all of which can be easily used as political and social chants, exhortations for equality and freedom and why not, as party-starting celebrations. He has no problem transcending beyond multiple styles and his music entangles reggae, punk, rock, hip-hop, ska, surf and salsa among others with key influences from North Africa, France, Spain and of course South America where he has spent a significant amount of time. Some refer to Manu Chao as the Che Guevara of latin music, and some of his songs have condemned political views of globalization, have challenged past US governments and above all have defeated them by achieving cross cultural dissemination of progressive and ultra democratic views.
Although Manu Chao has released only 3 studio albums, including 2007′s Grammy-award winning “La Radiolina”, his schedule is full with live performances that have become epic to the audience. A clear example is last year’s live double album, “Baionarena”, a 33-track live album recorded in Bayonne, France. More recently, he produced a double-album, Viva La Colifata, where he collaborated with the patients of a Buenos Aires catholic psychiatric hospital, the album can be downloaded for free at his website.
Anyone attending a Manu Chao concert walks away astonished by the power and intensity of his message. On Friday, his performance was no different. He played flawless versions of his songs for almost two hours, including about 4 or 5 encore sessions. He offered incredible moments through the night. “ A todos los muertos de la frontera de Arizona..”, ”A sus familias” said Chao before playing “Clandestino”, dedicating this symbolic song to the multitude number of people that have died in the Arizona dessert in search for a new life, a new hope, a new beginning…the song was intensely felt by many who loudly cried along the aching song. I should definitely add that throughout the night the Philly crowd responded to Manu with equal energy. People spent the entire night dancing and singing along, something that certainly touched Manu Chao who kept saying: “Philadelphia you are crazy”. As expected, a night to remember, and a concert experience you must live if you hadn’t yet.
I leave you with a clip from that night…of course, from “Clandestino”.
El 13 de septiembre sale finalmente a la venta la segunda producción de -Girls- que llevará por título "Father, Son, Holy Ghost". La banda de San Francisco editó en Septiembre de 2009 su primera producción "Album", uno de mis discos favoritos de ese año, que recibió prácticamente unanimidad en críticas favorables desde su lanzamiento. Con este segundo disco tienen el reto de mantenerse en el mismo nivel y los que hemos tenido la suerte de escucharlo podemos corroborar que lo han logrado. 11 tracks genialmente logrados en donde los californianos exploran por momentos terrenos mas arriesgados y oscuros que en su primer obra, sin dejar de incluir tracks pop divertidos como "Honey Bunny" que abre el álbum, y algunos tracks como "Die" en donde juegan con las distorsiones como nunca antes. En México esta maravilla será editada por los amigos de Arts & Crafts, en USA por True Partner Sounds, y obviamente estará disponible en todas las tiendas digitales.
Les dejo tres vids... "Vomit", su primer sencillo, "Honey Bunny" que al parecer será el segundo sencillo en forma oficial, y un tercer track "My Ma'", enjoy...