Last Night: St. Vincent and The National @ The Ogden Theater

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St. Vincent and The National September 18, 2007 The Ogden Theater Better than: Anything else I’d be doing on a Tuesday – or almost any day, for that matter.

Due to a series of unfortunate events, I missed most of St. Vincent’s opening set. What I caught was certainly intriguing. A one-woman multi-instrumentalist with some experimental, post-rock leanings and a strong, pretty voice. It reminded me just a bit of Bjork, but it was over before I could form a solid opinion.

I was unprepared for the intensity of the National's live show. On record, especially the new one, the National display more of a restrained dynamism than forceful, pedal-to-the-metal rocking. There’s plenty of energy there, but it isn’t explosive. Live, it was explosive. Even the slow, brooding songs had a much more obvious sense of urgency, and the uptempo, heavier rockers were positively furious.

The guitar work was noteworthy, and stood out in particular on the heavier songs such as “Mr. November.” Bryan Devendorf’s drumming and Padme Newsome’s violin work was also worth noting, as both were absolutely top notch. Singer Matt Berninger is a captivating performer. He seemed to get so wrapped up in the songs that he looked lost and unsure of what to do when he wasn’t singing, resorting to wandering the stage and awkwardly rubbing his hand across his face, or tapping on his leg until it was time for him to unleash his voice again.

The band also played with songs a little, altering them in ways both subtle and obvious from the album versions. These alternate takes on the songs were fantastic, in all but the case of “Apartment Story,” which seemed to lose some of the power and immediacy of its recorded version. Since that’s the only complaint I could muster, it was obviously a damn fine show. -- Cory Casciato

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: Check out my September 13 feature on the National. Random Detail: Apparent new fashion trend: Shirt and tie with cargo shorts and tennis shoes. I spotted at least three guys sporting this look. It says, “I’m snazzy, but also a slob,” or maybe just “Look at me, I’m a tool!” By the Way: This is only the second time the National have been to Denver, the last time being two years ago. Hopefully it won’t be two more before they return.

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