9.11 @ The HOLLYWOOD BOWL -The National, Neko Case with special guest T Bone Burnett and Sharon Van Etten.
THE NATIONAL consists of vocalist Matt Berninger fronting two pairs of brothers: Aaron (guitar, bass, piano) and Bryce Dessner (guitar), and Scott (bass, guitar) and Bryan Devendorf (drums). Their first full-lengths, The National and Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, and a crucial mini-album, Cherry Tree, preceded their signing to Beggars Banquet in 2004. Alligator (2005), included underground anthem “Mr. November,” and raised their profile as the National grew into an incendiary live band. Boxer (2007), featuring songs like “Fake Empire”, “Mistaken For Strangers” and “Start A War,” sold over three times as many copies as its predecessor and saw them transformed from underground stars into an indie rock institution: they began the album cycle opening for the Arcade Fire and with guest appearances on major television shows such as the Late Show with David Letterman. By the time their busy season in support of Boxer came to a close they had become a headline attraction in their own right — REM picked them as a crucial part of a US arena tour; and the Barack Obama campaign turned “Fake Empire” into an unstated anthem for his presidential run, using it in the soundtrack to the promotional video Signs Of Hope And Change, and as background music during his victory rally in Chicago’s Grant Park.
As the first decade of the 21st century came to a close both Boxer and Alligator made countless “album of the decade” lists and their members began to occupy a still larger cultural footprint. In the period between Boxer and High Violet, Aaron and Bryce produced 2009’s Dark Was The Night, a 31-track album to benefit the Red Hot Organization. Featuring contributions from Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, and many others, the record has raised close to $1,000,000 for numerous AIDS-related charities, including an emergency grant of $150,000 to Haiti’s Partners In Health after that country’s calamitous earthquake. A related Radio City Music Hall concert quickly sold out and found The National performing alongside David Byrne, Dirty Projectors, Feist, and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Next, the Brooklyn Academy Of Music commissioned the brothers to write and perform a 70-minute through-composed song cycle at the Howard Gilman Opera House, accompanying a film by visual artist Matthew Ritchie. The piece – titled The Long Count – was performed by a bespoke orchestra and sung by Matt Berninger, Kim and Kelley Deal (Breeders, Pixies) and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). More recently, in March 2010, Bryce’s Music Now event, a boutique festival in the band’s hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio, celebrated its fifth anniversary, and he co-curated the second annual Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. Anticipation for The National’s next move has grown to a fever pitch.
There's a special challenge to being an artist in this increasingly fractured cultural age; a delicate balancing act, between being of your time, and striving for timelessness. Few contemporary artists even try. NEKO CASE is an exception.
Case's last album, 2006's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, brought her to that nexus where critical acclaim meets commercial success. But Case's impact can't be measured merely in chart placements or press plaudits. It's her ability to connect - on an uncommonly deep and meaningful level - with her audience. She's one those artists, you see: the kind whose songs linger in your head, your heart and soul long after the record has stopped spinning.While Case's creative evolution has made for an impressive story so far, she's about to write the most remarkable chapter in that continuing saga with the release of her sixth studio album, Middle Cyclone.The tornado that blows through the title and several songs on Middle Cyclone is an apt metaphor. Neko has famously taken her own twisted route, lighting for a time in the South, in the West, in the Northwest, in Canada, flirting with as many musical styles as homes. She is settled-or unsettled-in Tucson for the moment, with dreams of moving fulltime to the former dairy farm she owns in Vermont. She recorded the new album in both locations, as well as studios in Toronto and Brooklyn.
For Case, the beauty of making music, of creating, is that it remains a mysterious, confounding and, occasionally, contradictory process. "When I toured for Fox Confessor one of the things I said in interviews about that record was that I don't like writing love songs, that I can't write them," she recalls. "Of course, as soon as I said that, I ended up writing a bunch of love songs."