I learned a long time ago that it's not okay to say you like something because it's "good". I guess that means it's also not okay to say you like something because it's the best thing on earth.
Of course I'm speaking of The National. What else? I'm thinking of changing this blog's name to Music Maven: Because The National Sounds Good but it's a little corny - and not correct. They sound way better than good and I never want to listen to anything else. BUT, when I do get around to putting some other music in my ears, it helps if they're slightly associated with my favorite band in the world.
Enter The Rolling Stones and Hall & Oates.
So far I've been fortunate enough to catch two concerts on The National's official summer tour and both times the pre-show music (hopefully selected by the band?) was phenomenal. I wish I wrote down every song played but two standouts were "Beast of Burden" - Rolling Stones and "Out of Touch" - H&O. Particularly over the amazing sound system at Radio City Music Hall, these songs sounded so good I had to write them down and purchase them the next day. I should've already owned them. Both share a sexy, eerie quality that The National themselves master so well. "Out of Touch" particularly evokes this mood where the lights need to be low and shoulders need to be exposed if you know what I mean. It's an effortlessly cool sound that is perfect to open a concert like that.
I love pre-concert discoveries. I was really upset a couple years ago when I attended a She & Him show and the recorded music over the speakers was better than their real opening acts. It was this mixture of indie/classic country music that I desperately wanted to find out about. I went as far as googling some of the lyrics to one song and nothing came up. I searched online the next day to see if they had a list of the music they play before their set but no luck. If musicians have full official websites that give tons of information about their tour, their management, etc, the least they could do is add what music they play before their set! I know sometimes it's venue-chosen but when I hear the same music every time I see a band on tour, I start to grow fond of it and want to know who it is. John Mayer is another example of an artist who always has the best pre-set music but typically lame opening acts.
If you think about it, it takes a pretty bold musician to play something like The Rolling Stones before their own set. That's a lot to live up to. Once the audience who has been sitting (or standing) for two hours has "Beast of Burden" in their head, how can their songs measure up? The National has nothing to fear of course but other bands... on an unrelated note, in the film "Crazy Heart" Jeff Bridges' character is a country musician opening in a PNC Bank Arts Center-like venue for a younger, better known musician in one scene. During soundcheck, the sound guy is fighting with him saying that the sound is perfect while Bridges knows that his vocals are being drowned out. He then says that he'll stay on stage until the guy fixes it because he's been around long enough to know that technicians deliberately make the opening act sound bad so the main act sounds better. I don't know if that's true but it's something that is sort of stuck in my head now. Lately, I haven't seen many opening bands I've liked. Unfortunately.
But that pre-show music. Here's a sample of what I'm talking about. I'm now obsessed with these two songs. Next time I see The National I'm going to try to take note again and get some kind of full list of all the songs they play. Once again, I don't know who's choosing this music but they're rather remarkable. These songs fit the mood perfectly and get me into seeing a concert.
Photo courtesy of my Google image search. Sorry, don't know where it's from but I love it.