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The National with Ferraby Lionheart show review

http://reviewermagazine.com/the-national-and-ferraby-show.html

The National with Ferraby Lionheart

@ House of Blues San Diego on May 28

Show review by Matt Powers

With its ornate carpeting, wooden architecture, and tiny stage the House of Blues feels more like a Shakespearean courtyard than a traditional rock venue. And that worked fine for opener Ferraby Lionheart. With his scarf, anachronistic name, and heavy scruff, Ferraby looked like a modern troubadour.

This look was matched by his music. Both reflective and forward-thinking, Ferraby subtly transcended the folk paradigm with his eclectic brand of Tin Pan Alley pop, heavily structured compositions, and unpretentious poetry.

Gorgeous classical influences permeated the set as well. And although there was a cellist onboard the influence was most pervasive stylistically. The precise, deliberate instrumentation recalled the orchestral, baroque pop of the 60s while Ferraby’s smooth delivery and whimsical lyrics was reminiscent of classic, WWII-era songsmiths.

The happy-go-lucky “Crack in Time” best embodied Ferraby’s sound. The light twang, mid-tempo strumming, and literary lyrics recalled Billy Bragg or even an updated version of a Woody Guthrie ballad.

Shades of indie rock pervaded as well. The gem “The Ballad of Gus and Sam” was dominated by an aloof-cool vocals (“the conversation’s great/ yeah I can tell”), an insistent jangle, and an infectious “ooo ooo” chorus that sounded straight London hipster.

Though an anomaly from his set, it served as an appropriate transition for the headliner act. Indie rockers The National took stage to a, now, claustrophobic House of Blues. And it was a fitting atmosphere for their songs: a mixture of forlorn romanticism and hopeful intensity, the songs are often as suffocating as the New York City milieu that they come from.

The set relied heavily on their latest two albums: Alligator and Boxer. “Mistaken for Strangers” lost some of it’s haunting, post-punk chill in the live setting but was transformed into an engaging rocker. “Abel” was mesmerizing with its dramatic stop-starts while utilizing singer Matt Beringer’s booming baritone to full effect. Alligator’s “Mr. November,” meanwhile, was as inspiring as a closer should be. And throughout the night unofficial member and multi-instrumentalist Padma Newsome’s electrifying violin work perfectly synchronized with the power chords from the Dessner twins.

But the slower songs – the songs that make up most the band’s oeuvre – didn’t maintain same power. “Fake Empire,” “Daughters of the SoHo Riots,” and “Secret Meeting” were adequate and all but still indistinct and unrevealing.

Nonetheless the night as a whole was more than adequate. Both of the night’s acts demonstrated the vast spectrum of roots music. From Ferraby’s stylized acoustic pop to The National’s Springsteen-inflected post-punk the night showcased two poles of Americana at the top of their game.

MP

Below ~ The National:

Farraby Lionheart:

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