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I had a conversation with Guan a while back about whether or not you could appreciate a band/muso live without being familiar with their back catalogue. I can’t find the IM thread (might be on my home computer), but essentially I think G was of the position that you couldn’t just come to a gig cold because you wouldn’t appreciate the differences between the live sound and the recording, you wouldn’t know what cool things they changed up in the live performance, basically you wouldn’t enjoy it as much on as many levels*. I take his point and think it has some merit.

But I think there is something to be said for the reverse. I had listened to The National’s Boxer a few times before last night’s show but usually in the background while I was working or something, so I hadn’t paid very close attention to it. I heard enough of it to know I liked it, but it didn’t grip me and refuse to let go.

Yet having seen their live show, now I’m listening to the album again and it’s resonating on many more levels than it did before. I pick out a line, or a word, or a musical phrase and remember how cool it was live, how raw, how blistering and it hooks me deeper into the music.

Lines like:

Looking for somewhere to stand and stay
I leaned on the wall and the wall leaned away

You know I dreamed about you
for twenty-nine years before I saw you
(Slow Show)

Let’s not try to figure out everything at once
It’s hard to keep track of you falling through the sky
(Fake Empire)

We expected something, something better than before,
we expected something more.
You were always weird but I never had to hold you by the edges like I do now.
(Start a war)

Also, forget this writing malarkey, I want to sing. In a band. Just putting that out there.

* obligatory Simpsons’ quote…
Professor Frink [showing a preschool class a toy]: N’hey hey! Ahem, n’hey…. So the compression and expansion of the longitudinal waves cause the erratic oscillation — you can see it there — of the neighbouring particles. Yes, what is it? What? What is it?
Little Girl: Can I play with it?
Frink: No, you can’t play with it; you won’t enjoy it on as many levels as I do…Mm-hai bw-ha whoa-hoa. The colours, children! Mwa-ha-lee!