I think we’ve all watched the spectacular video above of “Mr November” at Lollapalooza last year (“I won’t mess us over!”), but recently, it’s also garnered some attention from the writers at Grantland. Chris Jones writes:
This clip features the National playing their song “Mr. November” at last year’s Lollapalooza. More specifically, it features the greatest moment in YouTube’s short history of live rock’n’roll.
You might think I’m referring to the exchange mentioned in the video’s title, wherein lead singer Matt Berninger walks seemingly along the top of a hedge, like a topiary Jesus, and sings the opening chorus to a little girl. You would be mistaken. That moment, in fact, is pretty anti-rock: Berninger realizes that he’s screaming the word “fuck” in the face of a delicate porcelain doll and changes midstream to “I won’t mess us over,” which is pretty dad of him, but which isn’t quite the same thing.
(“Mr. November” is an awesome song, by the way. It’s more straight-ahead than most of the National’s stuff, both musically and lyrically, but “I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders” is one of the most heartbreaking lines in the recent history of American music, though not quite as heartbreaking as the moment Bruno Mars informs us that he’s not going to answer the phone today, because he’s not feeling particularly productive.)
But then: Berninger drops into the crowd. Our amateur cameraman can see only the top of Berninger’s distant head, so he turns to film the big screen beside the stage. And then the cameraman’s hands begin to shake, as though there’s a tremor riding through. In an instant of perfect timing, micro-geography, and circumstance, he turns back, looking straight into the faces of Berninger and his most proximate fans, who are just then launching into the chorus as it was written, all of them screaming “I won’t fuck us over!” at each other and really seeming to mean it. (Check out the dude in the singlet.)
The 2:29 mark of this video is a spectacular, spontaneous confluence of music and heart, which doesn’t happen nearly often enough anymore. But when it does—