Live Review: The National at House of Vans 10/30
Chicago’s House of Vans has only been open for eight months, but it didn’t take long for it to become one of the hottest underground venues in the city. “Secret gigs” and last-minute extravaganzas had already created quite a buzz around this West Loop venue, so when The National announced an intimate free performance ahead of their appearance at the Obama Foundation Summit, the heat turned to smoldering. With a dedicated squadron garnishing the back alleys of the venue in 40-degree temperatures hours before the band’s Monday night set, inside the sprawling lair felt crystalline and somewhat spooky — not unlike the cover of 2007’s Boxer.
When the band took the stage, an overexcited fan exclaimed the words “ROCK ICONS”, to which lead singer Matt Berninger sarcastically replied, “I…concur”. Berninger then dashed the crowd with quite a few politic riffs, including a dedication to the freshly indicted Paul Manafort and “asshole” Donald Trump. The band also managed to punch up a few classics like “Blood Buzz Ohio” and a fevering “Mr. November” as Berninger ran through the crowd and shot up the stairs of the VIP Longue. Richard Perry of Arcade Fire also helped shred through a track alongside them, as The National were set to open for the Canadian legion at the United Center just a few hours later.
It was a truly mesmerizing series of moments seeing a band back from a shortened European tour that did not seem dazed, but rather invigorated and jaunty while playing such a cozy corner of Chicago. The National is a band that seems to not only enjoy their new material, but also how it relates to the older stuff as well. There has always been a calm and a storm to The National, and it is how they relate the two and fuse them into each other that makes them one of the best bands for these tumultuous times in the United States of America. –-BY JIMBY SISTO