I’m In a Los Angeles Cathedral

After seeing The Lone Bellow at the Bluegrass Situation Festival last October, it was exciting to attend another one of their shows, this time as they opened for The National at The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, California on July 28, 2016. It was a little disheartening to see so many seats still open at a sold out show as the band took the stage, but early start times at the Greek compounded with L.A. traffic seem to make this a regular occurrence at this venue. Nevertheless, the band played as if every seat was full. The Greek also has arguably the best sound quality of any venue in the city, which makes up for the hassles of driving there (and that broken down car blocking the left lane of the 110 and slowing everything to a crawl) and parking.


The Lone Bellow Performing at The Greek Theatre

Sitting somewhere in the gray area between Americana and Country, The Lone Bellow broke out a batch of their best tunes for their brief opening spot. The soaring, spine-tingling three-part harmonies of Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin, exuded emotionally-wrought energy that was palpable, even from the terrace level of the Greek. Their music, with its hint of gospel flavoring, left me feeling that I was at a revival meeting and that my soul was washed clean and renewed by the time they left the stage. Highlights for me included Kanene singing “Call to War” and one of my favorites of this band’s songs, “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold.”  Their set included:

  1. Cold As It Is” from Then Came the Morning
  2. If You Don’t Love Me” from Then Came the Morning
  3.  “Marietta” from Then Came the Morning
  4. You Never Need Nobody” from The Lone Bellow
  5. Heaven Don’t Call Me Home” from Then Came the Morning
  6. Watch Over Us” from Then Came the Morning
  7. Call to War” from Then Came the Morning
  8. Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” from The Lone Bellow
  9. Then Came the Morning” from Then Came the Morning

The National Performing at The Greek Theatre

I’m going to admit to my lack of advance knowledge of The National, other than I bought their album Trouble Will Find Me at the same time I bought my ticket to this concert a few months earlier. I listened to it a handful of times prior to this show so I had a loose familiarity with their style. Given the band’s decade-plus existence I wasn’t prepared for lead singer, Matt Berninger’s, slightly awkward stage presence, which wavered from glued to the microphone for minutes at time while singing to bursts of lunging around the stage and squatting down to the ground in front of the drum kit almost as if he wasn’t feeling well. I was honestly worried for the guy toward the end of the night when he appeared to either have drunk too much of something from his plastic cup and/or was battling exhaustion. However, he never seemed to miss his lyrics or the beat and climbed through the pit into the audience to sing (as he has done at other shows) near the close of the concert. The band itself was fantastic, providing the safety net over which Matt could perform his vocal meandering tightrope walk. It almost didn’t matter how he was singing, as the relentless, repetitive, driving rhythms and flawless execution of the music urged the audience to adulation. The lighting designer for this show deserves some appreciation — stunning visuals. The National’s set for the night, included a handful of new songs, a few with working titles. They played:

  1. Sometimes I Don’t Think” — introduced as a new song. After this song Matt finds a beetle on the stage that he hands off to someone in the pit, saying “There is a beetle here that is gonna get killed if someone doesn’t take it home with them.” It becomes a running theme.
  2. Don’t Swallow the Cap” from Trouble Will Find Me
  3. I Should Live in Salt” from Trouble Will Find Me
  4. Bloodbuzz Ohio” from High Violet
  5. Checking Out of a Collapsing Space” – this new song was introduced under this title. Seems to also be known as “Roman Candle” per their set list (but maybe they shouldn’t call it that because there is another song/album with that title). Following performing this tune, Matt noted he was going to “attempt the impossible, which is inter-song banter.”
  6. Afraid of Everyone” from High Violet, introduced with the comment, “This is for my good friend America, who is going through a rough time right now.”
  7. Squalor Victoria” from Boxer
  8. I Need My Girl” from Trouble Will Find Me
  9. This is the Last Time” from Trouble Will Find Me
  10. Find A Way” — another new song, dedicated to the beetle that has been dubbed “Chris.” Matt asks, “Can you find your way out of the glasses case?” where the beetle is being held.
  11. Sea of Love” from Trouble Will Find Me. Matt says, “This is for Chris, who died during that song.” How fitting, with the lyrics the album was named for, “If I stay here, trouble will find me.” R.I.P. Chris.
  12. Sorrow” from High Violet
  13. It’s Just the Lights” — another new song, which may possibly change titles, includes lyric, “I’m going crazy but I’m not crazy, it’s just the lights.” His voice wandered over the top of the music on this song, like he hasn’t quite figure out what he wants to do with the melody.
  14. Pink Rabbits” from Trouble Will Find Me, this was a highlight of the night for me.
  15. England” from High Violet, big cheer from the audience when he sang the line, “I’m in a Los Angeles Cathedral.”  Given what had transpired for me with the opener, I think that is just about the perfect title for this post.
  16. Morning Dew” Grateful Dead cover from Day of the Dead
  17. Graceless” from Trouble Will Find Me
  18. Fake Empire” from Boxer
  19. The Day I Die” new song
  20. Prom Song 13th Century” the first song of the encore was a new song performed as a duet with Annie Clark of St. Vincent. I believe they said she learned that song only that day and it shows in the video that was recorded at that show, as she seems a little unsure of herself.
  21. Mr. November” from Alligator
  22. Terrible Love” from High Violet
  23. Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” from High Violet,  was played acoustic from the front of the stage with the audience singing along.

The National Performing at The Greek Theatre




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