Pela download, National in concert

A limited-time download, and one of the most thrilling concerts I have ever seen.

By Salon Staff
Published June 20, 2005 5:55PM (EDT)

Pela, whose song "Episodes (Diphenhydramine)" I featured a few weeks ago, has put up an excellent unreleased song (with a nice one-note guitar solo), "Operator (Rustebelt Mix)," for free download for a limited time.

I heard some of Pela's set last Thursday at New York's Mercury Lounge, but I can honestly barely remember it because then their friends and former labelmates the National took to the stage and proceeded to completely blow my mind with as thrilling and transcendent a rock show as I have ever seen. I wasn't even planning on staying for their whole set -- I've heard the National a few times already this year, a sold-out Mercury Lounge is a fairly uncomfortable place to hear music, and most important, Game 4 of the NBA Finals was on -- but from the moment they started playing until they left the stage, nearly an hour and a half later, I never once considered leaving. This band is constantly chasing after the sublime, and each song ends in a state of grace.

Singer Matt Berninger holds his microphone way up high, and cranes his head up to reach it, a constant supplicant. And part of the genius of this band is in playing such grandiose, glorious, self-assured U2-style arena rock but fronting it with a singer as emotionally fragile (despite that rich baritone) as Berninger. In the kick-it-up-a-notch moments when Bono would reach up to an ecstatic falsetto, Berninger (who has no falsetto) screams -- a real scream, angry and intense and frightening, and the effect is electrifying and destabilizing. The music is simple enough and not all that new, but at any given moment there's something going on -- an unusual chord change, an arresting lyric, an unexpected breakdown, a fill from the astounding drummer, Bryan Devendorf -- that makes the moment special. The National's music is passionate and fiery and heartbreaking and inspiring, and at the moment, they're blowing everyone else away.

Salon Staff

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