I am usually wary to come out and make such proclamations about where a live show ranks in my top ‘whatever’ list.

Having been to see at least 200 (I’m confident I have forgotten a shear 60 or so from earlier days) bands, you can imagine it is a bit difficult to nail down a top 10.

So it is with that I weigh upon you the significance of this statement: Seeing The National at Tempe’s Marquee Theater Oct. 14, 2010 was the best show, best live performance I have ever seen in my entire life.

The venue is small at best, a single room with a slanted concrete floor – nothin’ fancy. It wasn’t even sold out. But the intimacy of seeing a group like this charmingly broodish indie band in a small place with fellow die-hards brings chills to your skin.

Coasting on the success of their recently released High Violet (their fifth album and one that notably topped various international charts), The National took the stage reminiscing that they hadn’t played the Tempe/Phoenix area since 2005 when they graced the quaint little Modified Arts.

Having seen these guys at the Wiltern in LA (from the balcony, mind you) and in Lollapalooza’s Grant Park this summer, I was ready to call out the setlist blindly. However, as frontman Matt Berninger pointed out, they switched up their set list A LOT…and it was perfect.

Take a look:

Main set: Runaway, Anyone’s Ghost, Brainy, Bloodbuzz Ohio, Slow Show, Squalor Victoria, Afraid of Everyone, Baby We’ll Be Fine, Conversation 16, Apartment Story, Sorrow, Able, Mistaken for Strangers, England, Fake Empire

Encore: All the Wine, Mr. November, Terrible Love, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

*Notable moments:

  • Matt, before playing ‘Sorrow,’ said “This is a love song. If you’re comfortable with sadness…it’s a love song.”
  • Matt jumped into the crowd during ‘Mr. November’ and trekked to the back of the crowd, serenading them half-wine-drunkenly as fanatic adorers held up the microphone cord for him.
  • Matt, during ‘All the Wine,’ passed out red Solo cups full of wine to two people in the crowd who were celebrating birthdays.
  • For the final song, the band unplugged everything – mics, guitars, violins – asked for a quiet audience, and belted out a raw version of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.’ Though the song is a bonus track off of ‘High Violet,’ the whole crowd chimed in, chanting along to the stripped rendition. Here’s a great clip, taken from right next to Cam, Erin (brother and sister) and myself.

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